14 May 2015

Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Expected publication: 26 May 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

Pages: 336 pages

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary

Source: Publisher for review

Find It: Goodreads ~ Amazon


At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down. Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.

My Thoughts

Extraordinary Means should not have been a book that got my attention, if I’m completely honest.  I’m not the biggest lover of YA contemporary fiction, nor am I an emotional reader.  It was only the fact that the plot centres around teens with an incurable disease that made me want to read it, because I am a complete sucker for anything that involves diseases or viruses.

And when I started reading Extraordinary Means, I wasn’t completely sold.  The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Lane, who is completely focus on his academic success, and Sadie who he briefly met four years before at summer camp, and who has used being admitted to Latham as a way to reinvent herself as the kooky, funny rule breaker.  It took me a good three or four chapters to begin to really warm up to them, and it was only at about page 100 that I realised I was completely head-over-heels with this book.

The relationship between Sadie and Lane feels right – it’s close and intense, magnified even more so by the fact that they are able to spend so much time together in a closed environment – in any other setting their relationship would have felt a little too rushed, but with the possibility of death hanging over them, it’s completely understandable and felt very realistic.

Although I loved the characters, and the fact that Schneider is a certified heart-stomper is the fact that there was more to this book than two seriously ill teenagers falling in love with each other – there’s also growth in the characters, a lot of introspection about life and goals and all the things that make us who we are, and it was delicious.
Perhaps the most telling thing is that I actually highlighted passages because I thought they were beautiful and really resonated with me, which I very rarely do.  Here’s a small selection:

‘There’s a difference between being dead and dying.  We’re all dying.  Some of us die for ninety years, and some of us die for nineteen.  But each morning everyone on this planet wakes up one day closer to their death.  Everyone.  So living and dying are actually different words for the same thing, if you think about it.’ 
‘We mourn for the future because it’s easier than admitting that we’re miserable in the present.’ 
‘It’s strange how we can lose things that are right there.  How a barrier can go up at any moment, trapping you on the other side, keeping you from what you want.  How the things that hurt the most are the things we once had.’

Yes, these quotes are rather sad, but Extraordinary Means is not just a sad book – although my heart is now rather worse for wear, by the end I felt incredibly satisfied – I got so much more out of this book than I had ever imagined, and it’s definitely one of the best YA contemporary novels I’ve read.

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