Book Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

 

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.

 

Robyn Schneider is an extraordinary author if you ask me. She wrote a book about a tuberculosis epidemic- which I didn’t even know what tuberculosis was- and turned it into a lovely modern romantic YA novel. Smart.

When I read a book by an author I checked out before, it’s amusing to compare the plots in the previous books with their newest one. In this case, it is The Beginning of Everything, which was also written by her. What I realized in both books was that a) It took a major event to come crashing down on both boys’ perfect lives to see that they haven’t really been living and b) there is also a girl responsible for opening the boys’ eyes then leaving their lives.

In Extraordinary Means, the writing is lovely and real. Ms. Schneider wrote many witty sentences that left me thinking, “that is such a great way to explain it” or “how do you even think that up? It’s brilliant!” My favorite quote was “I had a massive bed at home, and I loved her dearly. She was my queen, and I was her loyal subject.” That was the best way to describe my relationship with my bed that I ever came across.

With this ability to write, she also made authentic and relatable characters I know you’ll love as much as I did. First of all, our demands for more diversity in books were answered! Two of the secondary characters have a different ethnicity; Nikhil is Indian and Marina is an African-American. This makes me happy and hopeful for future books. Second, of all, the true main characters were the star of this story. Lane and Sadie. The straight-A collegiate and the eccentric girl caught in a war against time and their health. Though, when Sadie recognized Lane in the initial action of the story it made me think of a quote from David Arnold’s Mosquitoland: “Life can be a real son of a bitch sometimes bringing things back around long after you’ve said goodbye.” I’ll tell you one thing: their romance was almost, almost as great as Hazel and Augustus. Just not quite.

I read contemporary novels every so often. Sometimes I’m like,”ew what is this monstrosity of a cliche in my hands” or “This was really really beautiful and funny.” I’d say this book was the latter. I liked it, and its witty quotes. That’s why I have given it 4 out 5 stars. So if you’re looking for the next Fault In Our Stars, or as someone on Goodreads noted  “The Fault in Our Alaska”, then check out Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, the story of second chances, what it means to have hope that you’ll figure out your place in the world and that you’ll be strong enough to get there.

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