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Five Feet Apart
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Five Feet Apart is about a budding romance between two teens in treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease affecting the lungs and leading to severely shortened life expectancy. Though the book is essentially a romance, larger issues of how serious illnesses affect families and the different ways patients deal with CF are important parts of the story. The content is fairly tame, in that there's no smoking, drinking, or drug use. Characters swear a little ("ass," "s--t," "f---ing") but not frequently. Romance and attraction figure largely into the story. Characters talk about sex and engage in sexy, flirtatious behavior in a few scenes, but nothing sexually graphic happens.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
FIVE FEET APART is about two teens with cystic fibrosis (CF) dealing with first love and the uncertainty of their futures. Stella's an organized achiever who has her life in order and manages her medications and treatments efficiently. Will's the total opposite. He's a rule breaker tired of medications, hospitalizations, and drug trials for B. cepacia, the bacteria he's contracted that's complicating his CF. When Stella and Will first meet on the CF ward, they infuriate each other, but in true opposites-attract fashion, romance eventually blooms. The bacteria infecting Will is easily transmitted and drug resistant, and it drastically shortens the already short life span of CF patients. Because of these factors, he has to stay six feet away from the other patients on the ward. This is especially important for Stella, as she is waiting for a lung transplant. As the two teens work through the physical barriers to a relationship, they're also working through emotional barriers: the ones that keep them from enjoying normal teen life and activities. They grapple with tough decisions and the way their illnesses have had an impact on their families. Balancing the desire to live a carefree life with the responsibility of taking care of themselves presents an ongoing and difficult battle. They hope to fight together, but they might not get to make that call.
Is it any good?
In this bittersweet romance, two teens struggling with cystic fibrosis find love where they least expect to: the hospital. Five Feet Apart starts out on the formulaic side. Stella's a straight arrow who's super organized and into coding, while Will's a rule-breaking artist. Their verbal sparring early in the book sounds forced, but as the story progresses, the banter becomes more engaging and the characters gain more depth. Stella and Will have serious emotional struggles because of their disease and their family issues. As they get to know each other, they grow emotionally and add a needed balance to each other's life. It's enjoyable to see the characters give each other important emotional gifts.
The story is told in alternating points of view, and that approach works well here. Will's and Stella's voices are different enough that changing narrators each chapter isn't confusing, and there's little overlapping of action between chapters, so the story doesn't get bogged down. One glaring error to note, though: A nurse reveals a patient's diagnosis to another patient. That's against the law. Also, the kids seem to have the run of the hospital, which pushes believability pretty far.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how sick or dying teens is a common theme in many books and movies, like in Five Feet Apart. Why do you think people like these stories so much? Do you find them interesting or inspiring?
Do you think teens should make some of their own health and medical decisions? At what age should kids get a say in their health care? When should a parent's decision override a kid's?
Are you more of a "live for the moment" or a "plan ahead and work hard" kind of person? What are the pros and cons of each type of life philosophy?
- Authors: Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: November 20, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.