Five Feet Apart

by Rachael Lippincott

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Five Feet Apart Summary

Five Feet Apart is a novel about Stella Grant and Will Newman, two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who fall in love.

  • Stella Grant is doing everything she can to stay healthy while waiting for a lung transplant. At the hospital, she meets Will Newman, who has a more severe form of cystic fibrosis than her own.
  • Will and Stella grow close emotionally but must keep their distance physically in order to avoid cross-contamination and infection.
  • When Stella receives her new lungs, Will says goodbye to her, not wanting Stella to watch him die. The two run into each other eight months later.

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Rachael Lippincott’s Five Feet Apart is a story about falling in love with someone who is both completely right and fundamentally wrong for you. Stella Grant is a teenager with a very un-teenage life. She has cystic fibrosis (CF), a disease that causes her lungs to fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. Her constant trips to the hospital have created a life separate from her peers, with activities much different from those of a typical teenager. Stella is waiting for a new set of lungs and following all of the protocols required to keep her alive in the meantime. She designs a phone app to keep her medications organized and does her best to stay upbeat.

Will Newman also has CF. He is new to the hospital and immediately intriguing to Stella. Because their immune systems are compromised and infection could lead to death, CF patients are supposed to stay at least six feet apart from one another to prevent the spreading of germs that could lead to cross-contamination and infection. As interesting as Stella finds Will, she knows she has to keep her distance.

While she awaits her new lungs, staying healthy is more important than ever. She won’t be a viable transplant recipient if there is any chance she has a fever. At the same time, she gets to know Will. The closer they become emotionally, the harder it is to stay physically apart. They have had very similar experiences and it’s refreshing to meet someone else who has been through the same struggles—especially when they’re so emotionally draining. Stella can tell Will things she has never dreamed of telling her sometimes-friends at school. He becomes a close confidant, and the two begin to develop romantic feelings for one another.

Will and Stella have very different approaches to dealing with their illnesses. Stella does everything just right so that she will be able to enjoy her new set of lungs. Will is saddled with a type of CF so severe that it will reoccur even if he receives a transplant, so he is not put on the list. Since he knows that his death is inevitable, Will does whatever he can to live fully while he is still alive. Will is counting down the days until he turns eighteen and can cease treatment. He doesn’t want to spend any more time in a hospital.

Stella wants to convince Will to take his treatment more seriously, while Will hopes to help Stella lighten up. She eventually agrees to close some of the physical distance between them—to be five feet apart instead of six—which is where the title, Five Feet Apart, comes from. They spend more and more time together, including at a birthday party that Stella throws for Will with the help of some of her other friends in the hospital. One of these friends, Poe, dies, and Stella is heartbroken that she never had the chance to hug him. This changes her outlook and she begins to take her treatment a little less seriously.

Stella and Will go on a walk that brings them to a frozen pond where they hold hands and slide on the ice. Stella has never been this close to another CF patient and is thrilled to be spending this time with Will. While there, Stella receives an alert that her new lungs are ready for transplant, but she ignores it in order to spend more time with Will. He has to beg her to go to the hospital, and during their argument, she falls through the ice. Will performs CPR, bringing them closer together than ever before, and revives her. Stella ultimately receives the transplant and does not contract Will’s infection. Once she has her new lungs, Will no longer wants her to watch him die while she could be living. He says goodbye to her and the two part ways. They run into each other eight months later, and readers are left to wonder what might happen next.

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