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I Belong


Early Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary MeansTitle: Extraordinary Means

Author: Robyn Schneider

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 26, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 006221716X (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062217165 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed

Synopsis

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park in this darkly funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Beginning of Everything.

Up until his diagnosis, Lane lived a fairly predictable life. But when he finds himself at a tuberculosis sanatorium called Latham House, he discovers an insular world with paradoxical rules, med sensors, and an eccentric yet utterly compelling confidante named Sadie—and life as Lane knows it will never be the same.

Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means is a heart-wrenching yet ultimately hopeful story about the miracles of first love and second chances.

Quick & Dirty: A touching love story, which made me recount my own blessings.

Opening Sentence: My first night at Latham House, I lay awake in my narrow, gabled room in Cottage 6 wondering how many had people died in it.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Given the hype around The Fault in Our Stars, I think everyone that reads Extraordinary Means will end up comparing the two. Both have teenagers suffering from a potentially terminal illness who fall in love, and both include heartbreak and death. Now that we’ve gone over the similarities I can happily move on to what sets EM apart.

The story is set in the future, but not so far forward that Facebook and mobile phones are non-existent. It’s a time after Ebola when a rare kind of TB plagues the world; total drug resistant TB. The problem is that the disease is contagious and there’s no cure, so people are quarantined once they’ve caught it. The story is told from both Lane’s and Sadie’s perspectives; two teenagers with this disease residing in Latham, one of these sanatoriums.

Most books on illnesses tell you how much the individual has lost, whereas in EM we get to see a different take on suffering and for some, Latham is a new start. Lane spent all his life studying and preparing to be lead a perfect life by getting into Stanford but in doing so he’s never allowed himself to have any fun. It’s only when he’s forced to put aside his studies to focus on getting better that he realises what he’s missed out on.

It occurred to me then how much I’d missed. I’d always told myself that there was plenty of time to goof around later, after I’d gotten into Stanford. But if the past month had taught me anything, it was that the life you plan isn’t the life that happens to you.

The kids at Latham are cut off from the real world so hacking extra time on the internet or sneaking into the nearest town’s Starbucks is a major adventure, which was unusual but fun to read. Lane befriends one of the most daring groups, mainly because of his piquing interest in Sadie, and ironically learns how to have the best time of his life.

The deaths at Latham highlighted everyone’s underlying fear. The small rebellious antics this group of friends perform are like a mask over reality; no one knows who will be next. Everyone in Latham has dreams and the hard truth is that it’s unlikely any of those will be fulfilled, so instead they try to make the best use of the time they have, trying to enjoy their lives instead of counting down the time left.

“Here’s a secret,” I said. “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.”

Although I found it to be an intense and thought provoking read, there was a fair amount of humour and lightness, at least in the first half of the book. The main characters were well developed, and I particularly liked Sadie’s carefree and daring personality. Once Lane loosened up, he became more interesting too! In fact, their entire group was made of misfits, kids who probably would never have become friends at a normal school, had their lives panned out differently. I liked the odd but close mix of friends who relied on each other like family.

What I didn’t like was the ending. I won’t reveal any spoilers but after catching a terminal disease that destroys their childhood and knowing that even if they do survive they will never be treated the same again, you would think they could be given an inkling of a happier ending?? I understand that it was probably more realistic this way but given the book is aimed at young adults, after all the grimness it would have been nice to end on a semi-happy note. Although now that I look back on it, there was a happy note, but not the one I was hoping for.

Notable Scene:

But the truth was, most of us weren’t in high school yearbooks. We were the ones who’d faded away, who hadn’t come back in the fall. Who might never come back. Because TB wasn’t like cancer, something to be battled while friends and family sat by your bedside, saying how brave you were. No one held our hands; they held their breath. We were sent away to places like Latham to protect everyone else, because it was better for them.

Additional Notable Scene:

“Lane,” she said after a while.

“Hmmm?”

“I’m so sorry. I always felt like there was something off about me, and now I know. I’m broken.”

It wrecked me all over again to hear her say that.

“You’re not broken.”

“Then how come I can’t be fixed?” she asked, shaking as she held back tears. “If I’m not broken, how come no one can fix me?”

skull4

FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Extraordinary Means. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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