Five Feet Apart

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Five Feet Apart Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Sweet love story of sick teens who aren't allowed to touch.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 48 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A lot of information on cystic fibrosis: what it is, what life is like for people who have it, treatments, the emotional impact. Some insight into what it is like to be in the hospital a lot.

Positive Messages

t's tough to deal with a serious illness and shortened life expectancy, but you can do it. Sometimes you have to give up trying to control everything and just live for the moment. Get to know people and practice empathy; not everyone will deal with life the way you do. Communicate your feelings with your family, truly listen to them. Sometimes you have to make big sacrifices for the ones you love. Story has many positive portrayals of friendship, love, trust. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the characters are good people doing their best in difficult circumstances. Stella is positive, hard working, easy to love, plus she's a coder building her own app. Will seems cold at first but is a loving, caring person who takes big risks for others, does the right thing when it matters. Will's and Stella's families are going through hard times but have their kids' best interests at heart. Will's and Stella's friends are all very supportive, are there for them when needed.


A character falls. A patient dies in the hospital, but it isn't shown. 


Because story is a romance, there's talk of longing and desire. A couple goes on a date and aren't allowed to touch, but they still flirt and strip down to their underwear.


Infrequent swearing, including "ass," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "crap," "dammit," "s--t," "f---ing," "bitch," "Jesus," "God."


Brands and media mentioned for scene setting, mostly internet and social media, including YouTube, Instagram, Google, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Snapchat, FaceTime, iPad, GoPro, Uber, Target, Sephora, Prada, Louis Vuitton.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrose402 April 8, 2019

100% recommend!!

five feet apart is a heartwarming, sad rom-com, it will make you cry for sure. it has a beautiful message and teaches you a lot about CF. not only will you fall... Continue reading
Adult Written byLexiGrace April 10, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written bynatkatttt February 25, 2019
Teen, 15 years old Written bynerdybookworm11 May 26, 2020

Cute and educational romance novel

I really enjoyed this book, and I was especially pleased with how educational it was. It teaches people a lot about cystic fibrosis; the two main characters, St... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and stories of teens fighting illness

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

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.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate