Here you will find a Five Feet Apart summary (Rachael Lippincott's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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Stella Grant, a high school senior, faces a life-threatening situation due to cystic fibrosis when she gets a fever and a sore throat. Stella, who was diagnosed at six, is disciplined about her treatment and medication routine to maintain her spot on the lung transplant list. This resolve comes from her fear of causing her parents, who divorced after her sister Abby's death, more pain. She meets a young man named Will Newman, another cystic fibrosis patient at her hospital, with the lethal B. cepacia. Although initially drawn to him, Stella is turned off by his rebellion against hospital rules and his plan to halt treatment to travel when he turns 18. Despite her initial wariness, Stella finds herself bothered by Will's neglect of his regimen and offers to help him. They start taking their medications together via Skype and forming a bond. After learning about Stella's deceased sister, Will tries to discuss it with her, causing Stella to pull away. Stella's first surgical procedure without Abby stirs up emotions and gives Will an opportunity to support her, leading her to fall in love with him. However, the risk of cross-contamination forces them apart. Despite the barriers, Stella decides to reclaim some control over their lives and proposes maintaining a distance of only five feet instead of six. However, the sudden death of their friend Poe and the arrival of Stella's new lungs create new complications. Stella falls through ice on a frozen pond while arguing with Will about receiving the lungs, and he saves her. However, realizing his presence is a threat to Stella's health, Will steps back. Months later, both are traveling, with Stella's health improving due to her new lungs and Will sticking to his regimen. They share a poignant moment at the airport, consciously standing five feet apart.
Stella Grant, a high schooler with cystic fibrosis, finds herself in the hospital once more due to a fever and sore throat. She personalizes her room as usual—with a fresh comforter, her beloved stuffed panda, Patches, family pictures, and sister Abby's artwork. After going over her to-do list, she gets a visit from her friends, Camila and Mya. They're headed to the senior class trip to Cabo—a trip Stella helped plan but can't attend due to her health. She assists them in choosing bathing suits, feeling a mix of disappointment and resignation. Once her friends leave, Stella studies a family picture, thinking about her need to remain healthy for her divorced parents. Seeking distraction, she creates a video for her YouTube channel, which she uses to share her journey with cystic fibrosis and to raise awareness. She reveals that her lung function has dipped to 35 percent and that she's high on the list for a lung transplant. She ends the video explaining the strict regimen of medications and therapies that keep her alive. Nurses Julie and Barb come in after she's done filming, to welcome her and administer an IV. Stella notices Julie's pregnancy and feels a mix of resentment and worry. As they leave, Barb mentions that Poe, Stella's best friend with the same condition, has also been admitted. Stella is thrilled but cautious—they must keep a safe distance due to the risk of cross-infection. Texting Poe, she learns he's in hospital for bronchitis. While he's nonchalant, Stella can't help but worry about her deteriorating lung function. Later, Stella focuses on her app—a tool for individuals with chronic diseases that produces reminders. As she peers out the window, she sees a young couple entering the hospital and ponders her own non-existent love life. Barb announces a new baby in the NICU. As Stella ventures out to see, she is stopped in her tracks by a good-looking boy of her age. She overheard him offering his room to the couple. Her initial attraction vanishes, and she moves on.
Will Newman, a new cystic fibrosis patient at the hospital, spends his time following Stella, recognizing her familiarity with the hospital staff. He tries to interact with Stella as she watches the newborns in the NICU, but she rebukes him for letting his friends use his room and flouting hospital rules. Barb, a hospital employee, instructs Will to stay six feet away from Stella, a precaution for cystic fibrosis patients. Upon returning to his room, Will contemplates his loneliness since his diagnosis with a severe cystic fibrosis complication, B. cepacia, eight months ago. His mom had taken him out of school to explore various experimental treatments across the globe in an attempt to save him. Jason and Hope, Will's friends, leave a note promising to see him on his eighteenth birthday in two weeks. Will looks forward to turning eighteen when he can legally decide to stop his treatment and travel until his disease takes its toll. He searches for Stella online and finds her YouTube diary, where he begins to watch her videos from the start.
Stella interrogates Barb about Will, learning that he's part of a clinical trial to treat B. cepacia. Barb cautions Stella to avoid Will, since contracting B. cepacia could result in her removal from the organ transplant list. Even though Stella finds Will attractive, she deems him too cocky for her liking. She feels sorry for his predicament but isn't shocked that his reckless behavior has led to a health complication. She gets a message from her dad, prompting her to remember the need to keep her parents stress-free before she drifts to sleep. Waking up, Stella discovers that the skin around her feeding tube is red and painful. She manages it on her own and eats breakfast while chatting with Poe on Skype. During their conversation, Poe discloses his break up with his boyfriend, Michael, which leaves Stella surprised as she believed they were a steady couple. When Poe starts choking while drinking a milk shake, his monitors sounding off, Stella rushes into the corridor as nurses dash into Poe's room. It turns out that his oxygen sensor had become disconnected. Stella is relieved but can't help noticing Will's lack of concern, staying locked in his room throughout the incident.
Throughout the night, Will engrosses himself in watching Stella’s videos, particularly drawn to one showcasing Stella's singing talents. He observes a touching family moment where Stella is coaxed by her sister, Abby, to perform onstage. When nervous, Abby calms Stella with the phrase “A bushel and a peck.” As he watches, Will becomes intrigued by the phrase and admires Stella’s beauty and vocal abilities. Suddenly, his mother and Dr. Hamid interrupt him to discuss his health progress, emphasizing the importance of avoiding cross-contamination. He dismisses their concerns as futile against B. cepacia, an attitude that irritates his mother. She tries to convince Barb to keep a strict eye on Will, offering her money, which Barb denies while reassuring her about Will's wellbeing. Craving fresh air, Will heads to the hospital's rooftop, immersing himself in the falling snow and reminiscing about similar views from rooftops worldwide. He spots Stella in her room, engrossed in her computer work. Upon making eye contact, Will experiences a severe coughing fit, nearly toppling off the edge of the roof.
Stella rushes from her room upon noticing Will's terror from his near fall off the roof. Will, having distanced himself from the edge, receives Stella's questioning about his decision to step into the cold given his lung condition. His response, that he's aware of his impending death and chooses to live life on the edge, infuriates Stella. She can't understand his disregard for his spot on the clinical trial and exits in a huff. In her room, Stella tries to concentrate on various chores but is preoccupied with memories of Will's fear. She speculates about his adherence to treatments, and the possibility of him neglecting them frustrates her. She comes to the shocking realization that she doesn't want Will to pass away.
Stella approaches Will, requesting a look at his treatment plan. Will hesitates before revealing his regimen, scrawled onto a sketchbook page and filled with doodles. Stella is taken aback by Will's casual approach to his own health and walks away. Will pursues her to the NICU. There, Stella reveals she visits to remind herself of the instinctual will to live, even in newborns. She passionately expresses her difficulty in watching Will surrender to his illness and offers to assist him with his regimen. Will consents, on the condition that Stella allows him to draw a portrait of her. Despite initial resistance and self-consciousness, Stella agrees upon hearing that Will finds her beautiful. Their first task, Stella declares, is to set up a cart in Will's room to better manage his medication. Back on his floor, Will encounters Poe and they begin to familiarize themselves with one another.
As Will and Poe stand guard for nurses, Stella arranges the med cart in Will's room and installs her app on his cellphone. While the app is downloading, Stella tidies Will's belongings, stumbles upon a drawing he made, and puts it on display on the wall. Afterwards, Stella removes her safety gear and cleans her hands in the restroom. Gazing at her surgical scars in the mirror, she questions how Will could perceive her as attractive. In her room, Stella browses her friends' social media updates from Cabo. Barb enters, asking if Stella had a hand in Will's new med cart setup. To keep her growing bond with Will a secret, Stella denies any involvement. Following Barb's departure, Poe and Stella Skype, during which Poe jovially hints at Stella's budding affection for Will.
Stella reaches out to Will via Skype, emphasizing that they will adhere to the treatment protocol as a team from now on. They remain connected on Skype almost two whole days, during which Will starts to improve health-wise due to the medication, and find solace in each other's company.
Stella, a week into her hospital stay, consults Dr. Hamid about an infection around her feeding tube and is advised to use ointment prior to considering surgery. She brushes off the severity of her infection when having lunch with her mother in the hospital café, trying not to add to her mother's worries. The emotional impact of the divorce on her parents is hinted, but her mother evades the topic. Her mother's emotional admission about her fear of losing Stella only reinforces Stella's determination to stay healthy for a lung transplant. Following her mother's departure, Stella accompanies Will to the hospital gym for lung-strengthening exercises. Post-exercise, Will reminds Stella of their deal, leading them to the yoga room where he begins to sketch her. Here, Stella shares her two to-do lists, one short-term and one long-term, with practical goals like learning languages and volunteering. Will questions Stella's lack of spontaneous actions, sharing his dream of world travel, making Stella ponder on the idea. Later, back in her room, Stella watches a video of Abby cliff diving on her laptop. The video upsets her, leading to her slamming the laptop shut and spilling soda. Searching for paper towels to clean the mess, she encounters Barb at the nurses' station who offers her comfort.
Julie provides Will with his experimental medication in the morning and expresses relief that he is committed to a treatment plan. Although Will tries to manage his expectations, he can't help but harbor hope. He finishes his sketch of Stella, adding a final touch of flames erupting from her mouth, and sneaks it under her door. Stella finds it amusing and starts a FaceTime chat with Will, during which he spots a drawing of lungs in her room. He learns that it was drawn by Stella's sister, Abby, but his interest angers Stella and abruptly ends their conversation. As Will steps out of his room, he's greeted by his friends, Jason and Hope. He realizes that despite having seen Stella's visitors, he's never encountered Abby. He shares this observation and shows them one of Stella's videos featuring Abby. He mentions that Abby hasn't featured in any recent videos, leading him to suspect something is wrong. Will seeks out Stella in the gym to ask her about Abby's absence. Stella admits that Abby passed away and that her efforts to survive are fueled by not wanting her parents to lose another child. Will argues that her life, spent mostly in hospitals, is not truly living. Stella reacts angrily to his comment and leaves.
Stella ponders on a missed trip to Arizona with Abby, her deceased sister. She was too ill then and Abby went alone. Abby's death was followed by her parents' divorce six months later, which propelled Stella to live for their sake. Stella shares her guilt for not accompanying her sister with Poe via text in the lounge. Poe reassures her, stating Abby's death wasn't her fault. Stella's existing infection around her feeding tube intensifies, causing discomfort. Upon examination, Dr. Hamid suggests surgery to remove the infected skin and replace the tube. Stella understands the potential dangers of the surgery given her weak lungs, and the risks of not getting it, which could lead to blood infection. Post Dr. Hamid's visit, Stella receives an apologetic drawing from Will, depicting him with flowers.
While aimlessly roaming the hospital, Will comes across Poe in the chapel on a call with his mom. Once Poe ends the call, he shares with Will that his parents were deported to Colombia two years ago and he hasn't seen them since. Despite being born in the US, Poe stayed back for medical reasons at his parents' request. He mentions his mom's desire for him to visit, but money is a constraint. Will suggests financially assisting Poe to visit his family, but Poe refuses. Later that night, still without a word from Stella, an anxious Will goes to her room. Stella informs him she is scheduled for surgery the following morning. Observing her nervous demeanor, Will understands it's Stella's first surgery without Abby.
Before her surgery, Stella contemplates the futility of her strict health regimen. A figure in scrubs enters, initially mistaken for a nurse, turns out to be Will. He acknowledges this is Stella's first surgery without her sister Abby, and sings Abby's familiar comfort song. Overwhelmed, Stella weeps, acknowledging she's in love with Will. Will departs before Dr. Hamid arrives, but his presence has instilled a newfound confidence in Stella about surviving the operation.
In the lobby, Will observes a heated discussion between Stella’s parents. Barb steps in, chastising them for their inability to suppress their emotions for the sake of their daughter. This situation gives Will insight into Stella’s strict adherence to her medical regimen, as she's trying to prevent additional stress for her parents. This realization prompts Will to consider a more proactive approach to his health instead of depending on Stella. Barb spots Will and calls him out for being in the pre-op room with Stella. She shares a tragic experience regarding two cystic fibrosis patients she cared for in her early nursing career. The patients had violated the six feet apart rule due to their romantic involvement, which ended in their demise. Barb vows to prevent a similar fate for Will and Stella. This revelation brings home to Will the gravity of his actions and he comprehends the potential harm he could cause Stella.
Stella comes to after her operation to find a sketch from Will in her room. She leaves him a voicemail and dozes off. When she video chats with Poe, she mentions getting a text from his former lover, Michael, who's checking up on Poe. She understands Poe's fear of burdening others with his issues, a fear she shares but is now determined to overcome. Her parents drop by to see her, their presence a surprise. They apologize for the strain they've caused since Abby's passing. Stella sends Will a message, asking him to join her in the hospital atrium that evening. When she arrives, instead of Will, Poe is there. Poe relays that Will doesn't think they should continue seeing each other, a conclusion Barb helped him reach to protect Stella. Frustrated with constantly avoiding dangers she can't entirely avoid, Stella confronts Will at his room, but he won't see her. Poe hints that Stella's interest in Will is because he reminds her of Abby. This provokes Stella, who accuses Poe of shying away from love whenever the opportunity arises. She spends several days not talking to Poe or Will until Poe extends an olive branch with an apologetic note. When they meet up again, Poe admits to Stella that he can't bear the thought of burdening someone with his illness only for him to eventually die.
Perched atop the hospital roof, Will ponders over Stella's voicemail from post-surgery, watching her from afar. He's musing about his perpetual longing for the unattainable when a mysterious envelope appears under his door the next day. It contains an intriguing sketch of him and Stella, separated by an arrow, with the caption “FIVE FEET AT ALL TIMES.” This message confuses Will because he knows cystic fibrosis patients must maintain a six-feet distance. A text from Stella soon arrives, linking him to her latest YouTube video about their disease, B. cepacia. Stella, holding a five-foot-long pool cue, declares in the video that she's had enough of the disease robbing her of life's joys and intends to reclaim a foot for herself. Later, she visits Will's room with the pool cue as their divider, asking him to meet her in the atrium that evening.
Stella shares a conversation with Poe before she gets dressed for her rendezvous with Will. For the first time, she doesn't yearn to be somewhere else, even if it was in Cabo with her friends. As Stella prepares to see Will, she reflects on the significant milestones of her life that have taken place in the hospital. This will be the setting for another such event, her inaugural date.
During the evening, Stella and Will decide to explore the hospital together. As they stroll around, they share their personal stories; Stella talks about her long history with the hospital since her early childhood, while Will opens up about his father's abandonment post his diagnosis. They eventually find themselves by the hospital's gym pool, where they debate their beliefs on afterlife. Stella thinks life after death isn't much different from life before birth, almost like two realms separated by a thin layer. Will, however, is sceptical about any existence after one's demise. This doesn't sit well with Stella as she finds it hard to believe that her sister Abby is completely gone. Upon being asked, Stella narrates Abby's tragic demise due to a cliff diving accident where she broke her neck and drowned. She expresses regret over her inability to support Abby like the latter did for her. Will, however, puts forward a harsh truth that everyone ultimately faces death alone. The conversation then shifts to their shared fear of death. In an attempt to lighten the mood, they decide to dip into the pool. As they do so, Will acknowledges a developing affection for Stella.
Stella and Will, freshly emerged from their pool adventure, meander through the hospital. Gazing out at a park aglow with festive lights, Stella recollects Abby's advice to wish upon them as though they were stars. An incoming alert from Poe, warning that Barb is searching for them, sends waves of panic through the pair. With quick thinking, Will advises Stella to conceal herself in the NICU, the first place Barb would expect to find her. Complying, Stella pretends to doze off on a couch where Barb eventually finds her and gently covers her with a blanket. The following day, Stella revels in the joy of her rendezvous with Will and commences planning for his upcoming birthday.
Will's mom and Dr. Hamid get into a heated discussion about the ineffective trial medication. Will steps in, reminding his mother he's now an adult and is tired of constantly moving between hospitals. He feels his mom sees him solely as his illness and not as an individual. After she leaves, he opens her gift - a vintage political comic strip. This makes him regret his harsh words as he realizes he doesn't truly understand her either, and that she fears losing him. When he tries to connect with Stella via FaceTime, she brushes him off, leaving him disheartened. His mood dips further when Jason informs him that he and Hope can't visit for his birthday. Later, Will receives a text from Stella initiating a scavenger hunt in the hospital. This leads him to the locked cafeteria, where he finds Stella, Hope, Jason, Mya, and Camila. They surprise him with a meal prepared by Poe.
As Stella and Poe share dessert duties, Poe shares his reunion with Michael and their plans to see Poe's family, delighting Stella. The birthday celebration for Will is interrupted by Barb, who insists everyone return to their rooms and threats to move Will out the next morning. Poe tries to explain they were just having fun. Stella and Will keep each other company over FaceTime as they drift off to sleep. However, Stella is awakened by a code blue alarm from Poe's room. She witnesses the medical team's unsuccessful attempt to revive Poe and in shock, retreats to her room, followed by Will. Overwhelmed by grief and feeling a deep sense of loss, she resents Will's attempt to comfort her, ordering him to leave. In her solitude, she vents her anger by destroying her room decorations, finally collapsing on her bed, exhausted. Stella reflects painfully on the reality she was ready for - her own demise, not losing loved ones like Abby and Poe. She observes Michael, heartbroken, collecting Poe's belongings. Climbing to the roof, she's consumed by the thought that her end might mirror Poe's. Spotting Will leaving with a packed bag, she turns her gaze to the festive lights in the park, feeling a strange pull towards them, a pull she's tempted to answer.
Angrily packing his belongings, Will arranges for an Uber to leave the hospital. As he waits outside, Stella joins him, expressing her desire to see the park lights. Despite his protests about the distance and cold, Stella is firm in her decision. They walk together, holding hands through gloves and maintaining a five-foot distance. En route to the park, they take a break to make snow angels and stargaze. Will observes a bulk in Stella's coat, which she reveals to be a stuffed panda, Patches, a gift from Abby during her inaugural hospital stay. Proceeding further, they encounter a frozen pond. After testing the ice's strength, Stella motivates Will to join her in gliding on the ice.
Stella receives several messages and calls while they're on the ice. The texts are from her parents and Barb, announcing the arrival of her new lungs at the hospital. She grapples with the reality that receiving new lungs means she can no longer be near Will, for fear of contracting B. cepacia. Without sharing this news with Will, Stella puts her phone away. In a heartfelt moment, Will confesses his love for her and they reduce the distance between them, almost sharing a kiss on the ice. Will conveys his longing for a life he knows he can't have, stirred by Stella. As the ice starts to crack, they rise and make their way back to the hospital.
Will finds messages from his mom on his phone, informing him that Stella's lungs have arrived. He shares the news with Stella, only to realize she was already aware of it. In response to Will's optimistic view that the lungs could offer a new beginning, Stella argues they could only extend her life by a maximum of five years. Despite Stella's attempt to dissuade him, Will calls the hospital. In the process, Stella trips over her tubes and lands on the icy surface. As Will rushes to assist her, he is relieved to hear her laugh. But his relief is short-lived as the ice cracks and Stella plunges in.
Stella finds herself battling beneath the water, watching Patches drift off. She has a hallucination of her sister Abby and questions if she's deceased, yet Abby reassures her she isn't. A wave of relief washes over Stella as she becomes aware of her desire to truly experience life.
After pulling Stella from the water, Will performs CPR on her, despite his belief that it might cost him his life. As she slowly regains consciousness, Abby's voice resonates in her mind, reminding her to keep living and that they are only ever an inch apart.
Stella gains consciousness in the hospital, surrounded by her parents, Dr. Hamid, and Barb. She urgently asks for Will's whereabouts and discovers he is lying in a nearby bed. Will insists on her accepting the lung transplant. Stella hesitates, unable to imagine a life without Will. However, recalling Abby's urging for her to choose life, she consents to the surgery. Will's relief is short-lived as he discloses to Dr. Hamid that he performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Stella, potentially exposing her to B. cepacia. Despite this, Dr. Hamid commends Will's actions and decides to proceed with the transplant.
As Stella undergoes surgery, Will anxiously stays with her family and friends, Mya and Camila. The tension breaks when Dr. Hamid announces the successful completion of the surgery. Barb later informs Will that Stella isn't infected with B. cepacia at present. When Will's mother questions about his medication, Barb discloses its ineffectiveness. Will expresses his remorse to Barb for his irresponsible actions with Stella, yet Barb assures him that the force of love is uncontrollable. Later, Will is found outside Stella's room, silently observing her sleep. He experiences a surge of relief knowing Stella's surgery was successful and gains a strong resolve to ensure she enjoys a long life.
Will assembles Barb, Julie, his companions, Stella's companions, and Stella's folks to set up a surprise for Stella. He completes a sketch of Stella on a frozen pond, entrusting it to her mother to hand over when she wakes up. As Stella regains consciousness, Will quietly exits. Waking, Stella discovers a sketchbook from Will, labeled “FIVE FEET APART”. It's filled with artistic renditions of their shared experiences. The final page holds Will’s singular to-do list: “Love Stella Forever.” Julie shows Stella a video from Will, expressing a regret— Stella never saw the park’s festive lights. Suddenly, the courtyard illuminates with holiday lights and Stella spots Will standing there. It hits her - he’s leaving. They touch hands through the window, and Will calls Stella so they can share a moment. He admits that her near-death ordeal made him realize he needs to keep her safe. He requests that she close her eyes so he can leave, which she does. Upon opening them, all that remains is a car driving away and the imprint of Will's lips on the window.
Several months down the line, Will and Jason are embarking on a journey to Brazil, marking the beginning of Will's long-awaited adventure to explore various cities. He's made a pact with his mother to seek medical advice in each city and maintain weekly communication with her. He spends time observing Stella's recent YouTube video discussing the significance of physical contact. Her improved health post-transplant surgery is evident to him. While he longs to be with her, he acknowledges that her wellbeing comes first. As he steps onto the plane, a familiar laughter arrests his attention, and his gaze locks with Stella's.
As Stella prepares to fly to Rome with Mya and Camilla, she acknowledges the physical and emotional improvements she has experienced post-surgery and from seeing her parents back together. The girls are thrilled about their upcoming trip and in their lively discussion, Stella senses Will's presence. Unexpectedly, she spots him amongst the crowd. There is a brief pause before they instinctively move towards each other, maintaining a distance of five feet between them.