In Five Feet Apart, rule follower Stella Grant has cystic fibrosis and is waiting for a lung transplant. She must stay six feet away from anyone who could make her sick. No exceptions. Enter Will Newman, a rich kid who is just counting down the days until he turns eighteen and can check himself out of the hospital and live his life, regardless of the consequences. But for now, he’s stuck in the hospital, a candidate for a new clinical drug trial. Stella knows she needs to stay away from Will because there’s so much as stake. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But as their feelings for each other grow, suddenly six feet may as well be a mile. Would staying five feet apart really make that much difference? Is it possible to love someone you can’t touch?
For a more absurd perspective on serious illness, try Going Bovine by the hysterically funny Libba Bray. Sixteen-year-old self-professed slacker Cameron contracts mad cow disease and lands in the hospital, where he meets a beautiful angel named Dulcie. They, along with a neurotic dwarf named Gonzo, and Balder, a Norse god trapped in a garden gnome’s body, embark on a mission to find a cure for his disease (and save the planet on the way). Is this magical realism? A bad drug reaction? Deathbed hallucination? Readers will have to decide for themselves, and they may even be inspired to read Don Quixote, the book upon which Going Bovine is loosely based.
Ah, Tuscany. What teenage girl wouldn’t want to spend the summer before her senior year basking in the history and beauty of Italy? Sixteen-year-old Lina, that’s who. In Love & Gelato, Lina, still reeling from the death of her mother from pancreatic cancer, reluctantly agrees to honor Hadley’s wish that she get to know her father, who is the superintendent of the American cemetery outside Florence. The kicker is that until Hadley got sick, neither Howard nor Lina knew the other existed. Awkward! Not surprisingly, Lina falls in love with Florence and the new friends she makes, especially her handsome half-American neighbor, Ren. As their story unfolds, we are treated to Hadley’s account of her year in Tuscany as well, told gradually by her diary entries. Love & Gelato is a personal favorite of mine, and apparently many teens agree, as it was a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten pick last year.
I may be a little biased, but I love a good story starring a librarian! Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is another story about finding love against all odds, and it will be sure to delight fans of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. Lazlo Strange is a war orphan who is obsessed with the city of Weep, which was lost after a devastating war between its mortal inhabitants and the Mesarthim, a race of godlike creatures who invaded it. His fondest dream is to travel to Weep and discover its secrets, and his dream is realized when the Godslayer Eril-Fane chooses him to join a group of scientists charged with restoring light to the once-great city. Unbeknownst to the expedition party and the residents of Weep, five Godspawn (born of the Mesarthim and their human prisoners) inhabit the citadel over Weep, and each harbors a special power. When a strange blue goddess named Sarai invades Lazlo’s dreams, he knows his life will be changed forever.
Be sure to visit the recommendations page which feature a variety of Librarian curated book suggestions.