Monday, August 19, 2019

Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart, Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis 

There is something about books that cover teen romance combined with major illness. They grab you in, draw out your emotional energy, and spit you out again hopefully more understanding and empathetic at the same time.

Stella has CF (cystic fibrosis), and has spent the last decade coming in and out of the same hospital, and is loved like one of the family by the medical staff. Over the years her Mum and Dad and sister Abby have already been by her side, and her sister’s drawings illustrate each hospital visit. However, things at home are complicated and this time she has come to hospital on her own. Delighted to learn fellow CF teen friend Poe is also in at this point, they reconnect quickly mainly via video chat as CF sufferers cannot get closer than 5 feet apart due to high risk of infection transfer.

At the same time, Will is in the same hospital. He also has CF, but combined with a deadly infection B. cepacia, which means he is no longer on the lung transplant list and only has a few years to live. His mother has made it her mission to find a cure and so has dragged him all over the world in hope. Will, however, is over the treatments and is counting down the days till he turns 18 and can refuse treatment.

As Will and Stella connect, neither is impressed with the other to start with. Stella thinks Will is arrogant and too risky. Will thinks Stella is too controlling and organised. But as they start to learn more about each other, the walls come down. Yet, how do people really connect, when they can never get closer than 5 feet from each other?

You know tragedy will strike at some point, but you can’t always see which way it comes from. We learn Stella has come to believe she has to survive for others. Will starts to realise just how dangerous his infection could be. Both grapple with the realities of facing death, major medical treatments and complicated family and friendships.

There are lots of similarities to The Fault in Our Stars. It doesn’t shy away from medical realities. It touches nerves, is funny as well as highly emotional, and sits with you for a while after. Highly recommended for teens about age 14 and up.

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