Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: May 26, 2015
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon
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.
1. Lane and Sadie are great. They are so different, yet they complement each other very well. Outside of Latham House, both would likely have been less social but for different reasons. Over the course of the book, Lane learns to loosen up a bit and embrace life, aided by Sadie, and it is amazing to watch this transformation. He is so hesitant in the beginning, like coming out of a shell, but I loved that he began to really live and to love life, and this is due to Sadie and her circle of friends. Before Latham House, he probably would not have experienced life to the fullest.
2. Lane and Sadie have a backstory that predates their arrival at Latham House, when they were at summer camp together. Something happens that has affected one of them and it has clouded so much about his/her life since that camp experience. Both recognize one another immediately as fellow campers, but it takes a while for both sides of the story to come out and for the air to be clear. There are several themes to this part of the story: forgiveness, judgment, etc. and I loved that the author included it into this book.
3. Sadie’s circle of friends are an eclectic bunch. They have different interests and are diverse. Sadie loves them wholeheartedly. They embraced Lane wholeheartedly. I think that they have a healthy dynamic to offset their unhealthy conditions. (There is a lot of this healthy/unhealthy in the book, so neat.) When they bring Lane into their fold, I feel likes them too, but I feel like it was initially more a thankfulness and a “Phew, I made friends!” before it grew into the same genuine love the rest had with one another. This isn’t surprising to me because Lane was not very social before arriving at Latham House. It wasn’t long before he was able to find deep connections with each of these characters, he grew to love them tremendously. I could feel how much this circle of friends meant to each other when I read their scenes together. It was important because of how they clung to each other during their stressful and scary times and also relied on one another for stress relief during fun and happy times.
4. The sneaking out and shenanigans provide plenty of smiles and chuckles and happy times, which is fantastic because there is always the underlying knowledge that these characters are sick. Yes, they are surviving right now, but the odds are that everyone won’t survive. It’s important to the story when certain sad things are explored, but the book did not feel overwhelmingly sad to me.
5. The world outside of Latham House is afraid of tuberculosis, so afraid. (Our real world is too, it’s afraid of any sickness that easily spreads.) There are a few parts of the book where we are reminded of the potential for hysteria even though it isn’t really present in the book. A minor character presents with fear, there is talk of potential fear back home, etc. This is something that is interesting to think about while reading. If a teacher at your child’s school lived with a person that had been diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis, how would you feel, what would you do? Would you demand the teacher step down from their job? Would you want the teacher to send their family member away to protect your own child? OR…what if you had no idea that the person coughing beside of you had a diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis? Scary, right? This is something that these teens worry about, integrating back into society after the world has been afraid of them, when they’re no longer sick.
Toward the end of Extraordinary Means, something happened that I was not expecting and a little cascade of events took place. I loved the end, how everything unfolded, but to tell you why means to spoil things that you really aren’t expecting.
I think that if people don’t pick up this book out of fear of heartbreak, it will probably be because of what they fear for the ending BUT the ending has some surprises. And it is hopeful. This story is a tragic one, yes, but there is so much in this book and it is a favorite of the bunch that I’ve read so far this year. I’m so happy that I stumbled upon such a lovely cover (it totally represents this book, by the way) and that I read this one. And I found a new-to-me author, that’s always fun! I need to go backward now and read previous work by this author. I recommend Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider to readers that enjoy young adult contemporary fiction with issues, alternating points-of-view, and romance.
Great secondary cast.