Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Format: Paperback, 324 pages
Publication: May 26th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Young Adult
Other keywords: Physical Illness
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 confidant named Sadie—and life as Lane knows it will never be the same.
Wry, bittersweet and often contemplative, Schneider’s sophomore book has the heart and humor of The Beginning of Everything, if decidedly darker.
Seventeen-year-old Lane Rosen has lived every single day of his life preparing for the future—paying attention to assignments, taking AP classes—until he’s diagnosed with totally-drug-resistant tuberculosis and, suddenly, senior year is happening four hundred miles away, without him. Then there is Sadie Bennett—buoyant, rebellious Sadie—who’s made peace with her condition. The story takes place in a sanatorium reminiscent of Hailsham called Latham House and right there, Lane is reunited with Sadie, whom he once went to summer camp with. Extraordinary Means is a paradigm of a quiet YA, in that it effectively mixes keenness to dialogue with characterization and subtlety with emotional resonance. It is a steady read up to the last third, when the narrative takes an inevitable turn, in a flurry that doesn’t feel rushed.
“I did the flash cards every night, but it was no use, because it wasn’t the multiplication table that was giving me trouble. It was the pressure of being told two things: 1. That I only had a short amount of time, and 2. That I had to get everything right.”
There’s nothing we haven’t already seen in this novel, but that’s the beauty of it. Schneider doesn’t need gimmicks to tell a gripping story. It just is. And I laud how she speaks the language of the teens she’s writing for and about. There are video games and Facebook updates and Harry Potter references and Tumblr and butterbeers and a John Green novel. I mean, how often do we get a John Green shout out in a contemporary book? Schneider is an extraordinary (come on, you know that’s bound to come up), unapologetic nerd and that translates very well into her work. She also nailed her acknowledgement twice now.
“”Yeah, but all it takes is one person who wants to stir up trouble, and suddenly everyone’s panicked,” Nick said. “Look at history if you don’t believe me.”
“Game of Thrones isn’t real,” I told him, and Marina snorted.”
Of course, it would be remiss to not talk characters in my review. If Schneider’s characters are a club, I’d sign up without vacillation. And maybe it’s just me but I have this sneaking suspicion that the author wrote Lane for me. I connected easily with him. In high school (extending to the early half of college), I was that guy whom no one considers inviting for night outs “and I probably would have made an excuse if they had, not because I didn’t want to, but because I thought I shouldn’t.” “I followed the rules because that was why rules existed, to be followed.” Those are Lane’s—and mine—word per word. Even our handwriting would look neat next to each other, I have no doubt. But hard work and handwriting aside, he’s just relatable through and through. Sadie, however, while never boring, seems to flicker in places. And Nick, Marina and Charlie are as entertaining and layered, as opposed to being mere plot devices. You would want to be in their circle.
“I hadn’t known it was possible to fail breakfast.”
But Extraordinary Means isn’t so much about being sick—for fine works are almost never about just one thing—as it is about finding your people, fitting in and living in the now—an echo of a theme the author first explored in her debut. It is a story of second chances and coming to terms with reality. And although I predicted how it’ll end, it did not stop me from caring. Plus the romance is neither excessive nor hastily done, which is always a treat.
A Never Let Me Go meets Looking for Alaska, Extraordinary Means is a satisfying follow up from Robyn Schneider, with solid opening lines that is fast becoming her brand.
Robyn Schneider is a writer, actor, and online personality. She is a graduate of Columbia University, where she studied creative writing, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where she studied medical ethics. She lives in Los Angeles, but also on the internet.
So. Have you read Extraordinary Means yet? If no, do you plan to? What about Schneider’s debut The Beginning of Everything (I definitely recommend)? Do you read the acknowledgements and author’s notes in books? And I’m pretty certain I talked about this before but have you seen this novel’s trailer? Because I ADORE IT and here, you’re welcome. ALSO, I’m attending the author’s signing tomorrow! YAAAY!