Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Series: No series
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Published: May 26th, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)
The summary of Extraordinary Means from Goodreads:
From the author of The Beginning of Everything: two teens with a deadly disease fall in love on the brink of a cure.
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.
I honestly didn’t expect to be as moved by this story as I was. Sometimes stories will ill teens are hard to connect to, for me. I have a different perspective than a lot of people, since I’ve had a lung disease since birth. I try not to be, but I know I’m a lot more critical of books that try to tackle that kind of material than other books. However, Extraordinary Means handled everything in an amazing way, and I was nearly brought to tears.
I felt so connected to these characters. I could see myself in them, in their actions and the things they said. Schneider captured wonderfully what it’s like to have something wrong with you on the inside, while the outside and your mind don’t feel the same.
“And being healthy, being okay, wouldn’t feel normal at all. It would feel amazing.”
Having an illness, whether it is a disease or something like tuberculosis, can really mess with your mind and perspective on the world. What’s normal becomes twisted into something that isn’t really normal at all, but it is for you. Normal is an entirely relative term, yet there is a kind of acceptable “normal” for the majority of people. It can be really difficult when you don’t fit into that normal mold.
Lane struggles to accept that his old normal isn’t going to fit anymore. That’s one of the most difficult things, I think, for people to understand. Things like medications and treatments aren’t always the biggest issue. Those become routine and just a part of life. But when an illness takes something away, it’s really hard to accept that. I take many pills a day, and spend at least two hours on treatments. But it’s the fact that I can’t hike like I used to that’s hardest to deal with. For Lane, it was his old life. His girlfriend, his studies, his desired future. All of those were taken away. That’s not something he can just accept. He fights it until he realizes that fighting it isn’t going to bring those things back; it’s only going to push them farther away.
“I wasn’t sure I knew how to leave Latham. I’d never let myself think for certain that I would, or when that might be.”
Sadie has been at Latham so long, and has built such a life there, that she doesn’t know how to be herself outside of Latham. TB has become part of her life, and has made such an impact, that she doesn’t consider the idea of what might happen if that part of her is taken away. She’s adapted to her new life. Just as Lane had trouble adjusting to life inside Latham, Sadie doesn’t know if she’ll be able to adjust to a possible life outside of Latham.
That’s what I think I loved most about Extraordinary Means. It’s about the adjustments and possibilities a disease brings. It’s not just about the bad. It’s not about the rainclouds that come with a diagnosis. It talks about the possibilities and how the disease bleeds into every part of life in ways that could be positive or negative depending on how you adjust. However, it never feels as though their illness is something hanging over their hands all the time. It’s there, yes, but they still live life in the ways they can. The disease doesn’t consume them and their thoughts and actions. It’s a part of them, but it does not define their entire being.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
This book will punch you in the gut a couple times. It will also make your heart soar and drop page after page. It feels real and difficult and wonderful and powerful all at the same time. It had none of the problems I felt with The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t feel like I had been taken advantage of while I read this book, which was one of my main issues with TFioS, or that I was being talked to in a condescending way. I felt understood.
Read this book. There’s really no other way to say it. Just read it.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegan Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.