We all go through life putting things on the back burner because we assume that we have more time. We think there will be more time to do all the things we want to do. We think we have forever, but we don’t. And nothing drives this point home more than when we are faced with the possibility of an early death. It really wakes you up and forces you to acknowledge your own mortality, and you start seeing everything differently. As you would do, if you every day you woke up with the possibility that this day might be your last.
This is the message that Rachael Lippincott, with fellow writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, explore in their young adult novel Five Feet Apart.
Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs with cystic fibrosis have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.
The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.
Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.
What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?
Despite Five Feet Apart being a highly successful film on Netflix, I still feel like the story is incredibly underrated. It’s one of my favourite novels, and films, coincidentally, yet it’s hardly ever mentioned or talked about.
Although at first the story sounds slightly morbid, it’s actually a really uplifting read. Told through the viewpoints of both Stella and Will, this friendship-turned romance story shows how two people can find love unexpectedly in what may appear to be a rather hopeless place.
The characters in this story are what make it – all of the kind, caring and wise nurses; the adorable and funny Poe; the mysterious and sarcastic artist that is Will; and, of course, the perky, thoughtful and obsessive Stella who plans everything within an inch of her life – quite literally. This unlikely collection of friends keeps the mood up and makes you smile despite the tragic circumstances they find themselves in. They remind each other to be strong and look at the bright side of things, which rubs off on the reader.
The best thing about Five Feet Apart, however, isn’t even the romance or the love story, it’s the message that Lippincott & co. have woven through the story: live your life to the fullest, because you never know what will happen tomorrow.
“If I’m going to die, I’d like to actually live first.”― Rachael Lippincott, Five Feet Apart
With the book set mostly in a hospital with young people facing the possibility of an early death, we see this message through most of the characters. But the impressive thing about Five Feet Apart is that it doesn’t just use cystic fibrosis to make this point. It’s not just those of us who are ill that face the possibility of an early death.
Stella’s sister Abby, who was absolutely 100% healthy and a couple of years older than Stella, our 17-year-old protagonist, died from a fatal accident. She never celebrated birthdays like they were her last, unlike her sister, because she thought she had forever and everyone knew Stella didn’t.
Just because there was nothing to say she would die, it didn’t stop her from having an early death. But the positive side (if there is one) is that Abby died having really lived. She lived, because Stella couldn’t. Abby is a waking reminder, in a different way from Stella, to always live life to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow might bring.
“I’m tired of living without really living.”― Rachael Lippincott, Five Feet Apart
We are very, very much alive and breathing and driving each other crazy and spending our days falling in love, or arguing with those who frustrate us, and holding those we care about close, and we should be thrilled to be able to do these things because there will never be enough time to do it all as many time as we would like.
So, tell the person you love that you love them while they can hear you, stand up for something you believed in, travel the world and see its wonders. Just don’t wait until the last possible minute to do the things you should be doing all along. That’s the message from this incredible story.