5 Feet Apart Book Review

5 Feet Apart: Book Review

Five Feet Apart is a young adult novel, soon to be released as a movie, which explores the complications of being a young person living with cystic fibrosis (CF).

It is read in alternating perspectives of Stella and Will, two teens staying in the respiratory ward of Saint Claire’s Hospital. Stella has forgone the chance to attend her senior class trip to Mexico in order to prepare herself for a double lung transplant. During her stay in hospital, Stella meets Will – a devastatingly handsome boy with CF. Although they initially do not attract, soon a whirlwind romance develops.

How does this book discuss cross-infection?

As the title suggests, a main factor in the developing relationship of Stella and Will is the possibility of sharing infections, commonly known as cross-infection. Although the recommendation from their treatment team is to stay six feet apart, they steal one foot back as a way to feel control over their CF.

Research has shown that people with CF can easily share germs with each other. Bacteria found naturally in the environment can thrive in the lungs of people with CF and once contracted, some of these germs are difficult to treat with antibiotics. Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia) is an example of a resistant bacteria.

In this story, Will is being treated for B. cepacia, an infection which currently prevents people with CF from being considered for lung transplant. However, with continued advances in medicine this may not always be the case.

Is this book relevant to Australian readers?

Although the majority of CF information is accurate and relatable to an Australian audience, the book is set in small-town America at a fictitious hospital. There are treatments that have been made up or are specific to the United States.

In terms of cross-infection, Cystic Fibrosis WA (CFWA) have adopted the Infection Prevention and Control recommendations which states that ‘People with CF should be separated by a distance of at least four metres, or 13 feet’. This is obviously a lot more than the recommended six feet apart referred to in the book.

There is also prominent mention of the AffloVest as a means of daily treatment. Although current research does not support the use of the vest, this part of the book does reflect positive routines for airway clearance. Further, it is important to note that the American medical system is different to the Australian medical system. As Australians have greater access to affordable care, the outcomes and attitudes towards CF are, generally, more positive.

What are the positive themes of this book?

There are many positive themes throughout this book and both the book and movie will help to increase awareness of CF to the general public. Five Feet Apart explains the intricacies of CF as well as detailing the treatment burden undertaken by people with CF. Although the first concern most people have about this book is the distance of two teens with CF in love, there are many examples throughout the book of teens with CF interacting in a safe and appropriate manner. Many teens may feel alone in their experience with CF, however Five Feet Apart shows that the use of technology can safely connect teens to each other.

Do you recommend this book?

I recommend reading this book and using it as a tool to facilitate a discussion surrounding the challenges presented with your young person. For young people with CF, there are many confronting issues that could be found distressing, however, this book and movie will be in mainstream media and most likely to be discussed by friends, family and others in the community.

If you or someone you know find this content distressing please contact CFWA. We have a range of resources available to address your concerns.

Further support

If you read this book or watch the movie and find that you have questions, or would like some support, please contact Kathryn on servicesmanager@cfwa.org.au or 08 6457 7348.


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