I was never a fan of contemporary romance – I am still not, even after reading Five Feet Apart.
Since the Five Feet Apart movie has just been released, I decided to share my thoughts and opinions on the novel of the same name written by Rachael Lippincott.
I first came across Five Feet Apart last year. The stunning cover art caught my attention from afar and I could not resist myself from getting my hands on a copy of it. However, after reading the synopsis I was disappointed – Five Feet Apart was just another cliched YA contemporary romance. I returned the book back to the shelf and forgot all about the book.
Few weeks later, I was tasked a research on Cystic Fibrosis (CF) by my Biology lecturer and immediately, Five Feet Apart flashed across my mind. I decided that I should give the book a try while doing my research in order to know more about how Cystic Fibrosis patients feel and how it affects their lives. I got myself a copy of Five Feet Apart and finished reading it within 4 hours.
Turns out, the book was exactly as I expected it to be – another cliched YA contemporary romance – however, it wasn’t completely awful.
The story was told in alternating points of views of Stella Grant and Will Newman, who were both Cystic Fibrosis sufferers. Stella was a Youtuber who posted vlogs about CF to raise awareness in the public about CF; Will was a more serious CF patient because he contracted B. Cepacia, his mother signed him up for a CF drug trial and he is ineligible for a lung transplant unlike Stella. Stella was grieving for her dead sister, Abby and Will was trying to convince himself to try out the drug trial. They both fell for each other but were required to be six feet apart in order to prevent themselves from contracting possible infections from each other (cross infection) which will kill them due to their specific condition. They tried going out for dates by keeping a six-feet distance between them the whole time. Stella decided to shorten the distance to five feet. When Stella was informed that she will be receiving new lungs, she chose to escape the hospital to go out on a date with Will. On that night, Stella accidentally fell into a pond and Will gave her CPR in order to save her, but he feared he might give her B. Cepacia. Will left in order to let Stella live a healthy life, but in the ending, Stella and Will reunited and both of them were in stable conditions.
The main cliché in this book is the insta-romance: 30 pages into the book and I was already tired of rolling my eyes at the insta-romance.
“His tousled, dark-chocolate-brown hair is perfectly unruly, like he just popped out of a Teen Vogue and landed smack in the middle of Saint Grace’s Hospital.” — Stella describing Will when she saw him for the first time.
Cringed – well, a chronic CF patient will probably not look like a Teen Vogue model considering their ill condition.
“He’s so cute, my lung function feels like it dropped another 10 percent.”
“And, let’s be honest here. It’s not every day you see a remotely attractive girl hanging around a hospital, no more than five doors from yours.” — Will describing Stella when he saw her for the first time, with her mask on.
Cringed extremely hard.
The writer also seemed to give an inaccurate portrayal of CF patients. Non-chronic CF patients can actually still live a normal life with proper treatments. They can go to school, attend prom night, and play football – just like any of us. According to the book, Will and Stella were probably chronic CF patients where lung transplant is the only option for them to extend their lifespans. The writer could have done a deeper and more detailed research on CF and how it affects the patients’lives. Besides, the setting of the hospital was inaccurate and unrealistic. In the first chapter, Will was seen by Stella lending his room for his friend and his friend’s girlfriend as if his room was a motel; also, Will, Stella and other teenage patients often sneak around the hospital as if they were playing hide-and-seek with the healthcare staffs. The hospital is not a place where patients were confined to their beds without freedom, they do not have to sneak around like that – all they have to do is ask for permission; the hospital is also definitely not a motel where patients can “lend” their room for other patients – there are staffs and securities to ensure that does not happen.
The book also focused too much on romance. I was actually more interested in the friendship between the CF patients than the romance. The characters in the book were also rather flat, I saw little to no character growth nor development at the end of the book from both Stella and Will.
Despite the flaws, the book managed to show a certain uniqueness throughout the book. I liked the idea of using CF as a theme, where readers can be more aware of the disease and know more about how CF patients feel. The theme is quite similar to John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, where two chronically ill people fell in love but were unable to be together. Another detail that I liked was that the author included POC (people of colour) and LGBTQ+ characters in the book. Diversity is something that I’d like to read more of in fictional works, because it represents a specific community and it makes the story setting more realistic. I also liked how the writer chose to end the story by not letting Stella and Will be together – happily ever after is too cliché.
To conclude, I would only recommend this book to those who really enjoy reading contemporary romance and wants to read similar works to TFIOS by John Green. I am looking forward to watching the movie this weekend and I would like to see how the story will be presented in the film.