When we first saw the trailer for Five Feet Apart and proceeded to see lots of TV spots for the movie, we were intrigued by story. However, we knew it was based on a book and, as bookworms, wanted to read that first before watching the movie. Now that we’ve finished reading the novel and seeing the film, we’re comparing the two to see how they stack up.
Book: Obviously the book allows for a more developed story that includes smaller storylines and conflicts that contribute to the main plot and conflict. So in addition to the problem of Will and Stella not being able to have a normal romantic relationship because of their cystic fibrosis, the reader sees how other storylines, like Stella’s parents’ divorce, affect the central one. Because of that, the story is deeper and more complex, providing internal and external conflicts. The story also has good pacing and timing and nothing really felt rushed or too drawn out.
Movie: The movie puts lots of focus on central conflict of Will and Stella’s cystic fibrosis-affected relationship and doesn’t really incorporate any of the other, smaller storylines that were in the book. It simply hinted at them, like Stella’s parents’ divorce and how that affects her and Will’s rocky relationship with his mother. Because it’s a movie and things generally need to happen faster, the movie has pretty quick pacing and story progression.
Our Preference: Book
Book: The novel had multi-faceted main characters who were more than just teenagers with cystic fibrosis. Stella’s a teenager who not only deals with an incurable illness but is a dedicated person to her friends, family, and school. She’s detail-oriented, needs everything to be in its place, and wants (or needs) to help people if and when she can. Will is a teenager who wants to actually live life and experience what the world has to offer before he inevitably dies at a relatively early age. He wants the freedom to do whatever and go wherever he would like as opposed to being stuck in hospitals all the time. He doesn’t care much about getting better or maintaining the level of health he does have.
There’s also a good variety of supporting characters, from Barb, the caring and dedicated nurse whom Stella’s known for a long time; to Poe, Stella’s best friend in the hospital whom she’s grown up and endured CF with; to Will’s mom, who will do anything and spend as much as possible to cure her son. The supporting characters provide a good contrast among one another as well as the main characters.
Movie: All of the characters in the movie seemed to lack depth. For the most part, Stella and Will were just teenagers with CF who fell in love. They both had interests and hobbies, but as people, they didn’t have much else going on. Stella’s detail-oriented and sometimes controlling personality was present but not a lot. The audience doesn’t get a true feel for what Will wants out of life. Besides Barb and Poe, the supporting characters kind of just existed and didn’t do anything to contribute to the story.
Our Preference: Book
Book: They say not to judge a book by its cover, and we won’t ― although, if we’re being entirely honest, you know there is some sort of correlation between covers and the quality of the writing and story ― but we have to mention how stunning the cover is. The art is beautiful and is actually significant to a specific part of the story itself. The illustration of the lungs branching out into flowers is just like the drawing Stella’s sister, Abby, made for Stella in the story.
The characters, especially the main characters, were characterized well and had depth to them. The authors did a good job at making the characters actual people and not just characters who exist for the sake of a story.
There are a variety of relationships in the book, and the reader gets to see the different kinds of relationships and the unique interactions featured in each one. For example, Stella is able to balance being playful and serious with her parents. With Poe, the reader experiences the playful banter his relationship with Stella is based on.
A detail about Stella’s life that’s very much present in the book is how Stella is making an app to help those with chronic illnesses manage their medications and treatments. It’s a good demonstration of her dedicated nature that isn’t as present in the movie.
Movie: In terms of the main plot, the movie is very true to the book. All of the major plot points from the book happened in the movie with no major changes. Because there was a visual development of Stella and Will’s relationship, complete with a montage, it was easier to see why Stella and Will fell for each other. Then there were details that were easier to comprehend in the visually as opposed to textually, like Stella’s trick with the pudding and the intensity and frequency of their treatments and medications.
Book: Considering this is a young adult romance novel, we felt there needed to be more explanation of why Stella liked Will. While it was evident Stella didn’t immediately have a crush on Will, it jumped from dislike to a crush and intrigue and leaped to a legitimate romantic interest, and we didn’t really understand why it became so serious so suddenly. While it’s totally possible Stella didn’t even know why she was romantically interested in Will, it would be nice for the reader to know that.
Movie: One of the first things we wondered once Stella had to be rescued was “Where’s Patches?!” Patches, a plush panda, is important to Stella because Abby gave it to her and has had Patches since she was diagnosed with CF. Stella brings Patches with her when she goes to see the lights miles away from the hospital, but after she falls through the ice, we don’t know if Patches is left in the water or, like in the book, has been rescued. As people who love their stuffed animals and are very sentimental, we are not okay with this uncertainty.
Stella likes to visit the NICU, but in the movie, no one ever explains why. There’s nothing abnormal about watching babies, but she goes out of her way to go there. There’s an implied significance and reasoning behind her desire to go to the NICU, but the audience doesn’t get that in the movie unlike in the book.
Again, some of the supporting characters kind of just exist in the movie and don’t serve much of a purpose other than making it seem like Stella and Will do indeed have a life outside of the hospital.
Another thing is the absence of the significance of Will’s mom getting him a gift. The movie shows Will has a birthday gift from his mom, and that’s it. He doesn’t open it. It just sits there and seems unnecessary. However, in the book, it serves as evidence that his mom actually knows who he is as a person and doesn’t just see him as a problem that needs to be fixed.
Both are good and portray a narrative well. However, because of the depth it offers, we prefer the book. The movie is still an enjoyable watch, especially if you’re in the mood for a sappy, emotional love story, particularly if you want a more youthful take but don’t want to watch The Fault in Our Stars for the 20th time.