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"Five Feet Apart" Book Discussion and Chocolate Pudding Cupcake Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.

"Five Feet Apart" book review

"Five Feet Apart" book review

Five Feet Apart Summary

Stella is a teenager with cystic fibrosis. Her lungs function at around thirty-five percent, meaning her high school experiences are a lot more limited than most teens. While her friends get to go on a senior trip to Cabo, Stella is confined to a hospital room for a month, this time to treat a cold and fever with antibiotics. However, she chooses to stay positive with checklists, regimens, her video followers, and an app she’s developing.

Will is sick of being dragged all over the world by his mother, who insists on every imaginable treatment for his additional CF complication, an infection called B. cepacia. He is not allowed to come within 6 feet of anyone else with CF, and he’s tired of hospitals. All Will wants is to go actually see the cities he’s been to, not just their hospitals. He’s all but given up on his regimen, until Stella convinces him to try again, insisting she’ll be “beside him” through video, every single step. She even teaches him a trick for taking their meds with chocolate pudding.

By giving him a chance to be open with someone for the first time in years, soon Stella is “crushing on the most sarcastic, annoying, infectious boy she’s ever met.”

Stella’s optimistic, achieving attitude is a stark contrast to Will’s giving up on treatments and desire to go live what’s left of his life outside of hospital rooms, yet both will challenge each other to be different, to experience life more than they ever have before.

Five Feet Apart is an uplifting, positive look at living with difficult medical conditions, and appreciating what you can do or overcome, regardless of what is trying to hold you back.

Perfect for Fans Of:

  • John Green
  • Teen romance
  • Teen dramas
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Romantic dramas

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Stella liked making plans, such as what to do today, and “whirlwind Cabo romance with Mason”? Creative project idea: Try coming up with your own “day off” plans, and maybe even check some of them off, or schedule a day to do all of them (this could also be a fun date).
  2. What were some of the limitations on Stella because of her condition, such as at the winter formal and the senior trip? Contrast her teen high school experiences with Camila and Mya and her mentality about dying young.
  3. Stella tried to stay positive by helping her friends pick out their bathing suits for the trip she couldn’t go on, listing the hospital “amenities” (full-time concierge, unlimited chocolate pudding, laundry service) on her YouTube live video, and creating an app to track her scheduled dosages. Why was positivity so important to her, including for others? What causes some people to seek positivity in bad circumstances, and why do others choose to be negative about them? What does it take to reroute your brain from one learned habit to another?
  4. What are some of the ways Stella chose to pass the month’s time she had to be in the hospital?
  5. What does “five feet apart” mean to Stella and Poe? What are the risks?
  6. What are some of the objects Stella chooses for her hospital room, versus the items Poe had, or Will? What is their significance? If you had to stay in the hospital for a month, what items would you want around you now? What about when you were a teen?
  7. Will couldn’t wait to turn 18 and be in charge of his own fate and treatments, out from under the thumb of his mother. How was this different from Poe and his parents? What was the dynamic between Stella and her parents?
  8. Why was it such a struggle for Stella to want to touch Julie’s new baby bump?
  9. Will always made “it a point to find a way to get to the roof” of every hospital he went to; how did it “make all this treatment crap seem small”? How did this practice terrify Stella?
  10. What were some of Stella's “control issues”? Why and what things did she “need to know are in order”?
  11. Why did Will enjoy drawing cartoons?
  12. How is Stella “a dying girl with survivor’s guilt”? How was she not living?
  13. What were the three “invaluable gifts” Abby gave Stella on the day of her first surgery, at six years old? How did Will give Stella a gift from Abby on the day of her surgery to fight her infection?
  14. Who were Trevor Von and Amy Presley and how were they responsible for Barb’s sharp, strict behavior? How did they alter Will’s behavior?
  15. What was Poe afraid of, and why did he push away those who tried to love him?
  16. Why five feet apart, not six? What did Stella use to help accomplish this distance?

The Recipe

Stella admitted that she “drinks her body weight in milkshakes,” and she would have breakfast dates with Poe over Skype which included a “giant chocolate milkshake.” At lunch in the hospital cafeteria with her mom, Stella has a chocolate shake which winds up all over the both of them.

One of the “amenities” Stella lists having in the hospital is unlimited chocolate pudding. When Stella’s app was ready for beta, she celebrated with a chocolate pudding cup. Stella also developed a tactic for taking her pills with chocolate pudding, which she showed to Will to help get him back on his regimen.

Chocolate pudding cupcakes with chocolate pudding frosting

Chocolate pudding cupcakes with chocolate pudding frosting


For the cupcakes:

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 1 3.9-oz packet chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, buttermilk, or whole milk, at room temp
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coffee, hot, freshly brewed

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3.9-oz packet chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons coffee


  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together brown sugar with the oil on medium-high speed for one minute. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, chocolate pudding mix, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. To the mixer, add the sour cream, heavy cream, one teaspoon of vanilla, and the egg and combine for one minute. Drop the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly add the flour mixture. Allow to combine for about two minutes, until the wet and dry ingredients seem fully incorporated.
  2. Stop the mixer to scrape down the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if anything is sticking to the walls of the bowl and not adding in to the batter. On the lowest speed, slowly and carefully pour in the hot coffee a little at a time. When all of it is in the bowl, stop the mixer, scoop any batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top, and mix for two minutes on medium speed. Scoop into paper-lined cupcake tins about two-thirds full.
  3. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the side of each cake and it comes out clean of any raw batter or crumbs. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before frosting. Makes about 14-16 cupcakes.
  4. For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on medium speed for one minute. Stop the mixer and add powdered sugar and the milk. Mix on low for one-two minutes, until the powder disappears. Stop the mixer again and add the chocolate pudding mix, the cocoa powder, the teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the three tablespoons of coffee. Mix on low for one minute, then increase speed to medium-high for two minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. If it is too dense and crumbly, add more heavy cream. Frost onto cooled cupcakes (at least 10 minutes) using a star or rose tip.

Rate the Recipe

Similar Reads

The Fault in Our Stars is also about a young girl with a breathing tube, oxygen tank, and limited on the type of lifestyle she can have because of a health condition— cancer. It is also the story of how she met a boy named Augustus Waters who taught her how to truly live.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Youn is also about a girl who is physically limited—she is allergic to everything and unable to leave her house for over a decade. But then an attractive boy moves in next door whom she is sure to fall in love with. Another book of hers, The Sun Is Also a Star, has been made into a movie.

When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger is about a girl aching to be emancipated on her 18th birthday, and to spend as much time as she can with a hawk at the zoo where she works, and away from all the people around whom she has to pretend to be normal. Then one day a boy who walks with a cane arrives and changes everything.

Paper Girl by Cindy R. Wilson is about a girl with extreme social anxiety, basically agoraphobia, who feels that only paper things are safe, like her room and her house. Her mother hires her a handsome tutor, a guy whom she had a crush on before everything happened, and he makes her feel like taking a chance on life again.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is also about two teens falling in love in the 1980s, both overcoming challenging circumstances at home and in school as outcasts, since one of them is Korean, and one is overweight.

Another book about a strong-willed girl with an embarrassing ailment who is stuck in a hospital for the time, but also adores good chocolate, is the rom-com by Jenny Colgan, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris.

Notable Quotes

“I let the positivity push away all the negativity I felt going into this.”

“I remember I used to be afraid of I don’t even flinch. It makes me feel strong every time I get poked or prodded. Like I can overcome anything.”

“Oh I get it. I’m so good looking you can’t even string a sentence together.”

“If I’m going to die, I’d like to actually live first.”

“...a six-foot dude attempting to stay low and sneak around is about as subtle as a blindfolded elephant.”

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”

“Newsflash. Girls can code.”

“For the first time I feel the weight of every single inch, every millimeter, of the six feet between us. I pull my sweatshirt closer to my body...trying to ignore the fact that that open space? It will always be there.”

“Inside you’ll find my heart and soul. Be kind.”

“I think a well-drawn cartoon can say more than words ever could… It could change minds.”

“You’re a dying girl with survivor’s guilt.”

“I realize I’m doing the one thing I’ve told myself this whole time I wouldn’t do. I’m wanting something I can never have.”

“The only thing worse than not being able to be with her or be around her would be living in a world that she didn’t exist in at all. Especially if it’s my fault.”

“I know in that moment that this ‘little thing’ between us isn’t over. It’s just starting.”

“Cystic fibrosis will steal no more from me. From now on, I am the thief.”

© 2019 Amanda Lorenzo


Michelle Boyd on March 14, 2019:

These cupcakes are incredible! My new favorite!

Naude Lorenzo on March 14, 2019:

That is a fantastic book, the recipe as usual, delicious, this is a good week to bake, I know it will be very, very good, Thanks Amanda.

Shawindi Silva from Sri lanka on March 14, 2019:

The recipe looks great ! and the book is very interesting, I have read it.