I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 26th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, YA
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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.
So far it’s 2 for 2 for this author. I read and fell in love with The Beginning of Everything last year, and even having high hopes for this one I was not one bit disappointed.
This time we’re taken to Latham House, a place where the sick are sent to try and get better. A place that is pretty much like a very morbid summer camp. Told in alternating point of views, we first meet Lane who’s on the road to achieving his goal of going to an Ivy League school. He’s a straight A student who’d rather study than have to deal with TB. Getting sent to Latham means losing the perfect GPA that he’s been working so hard for. In a way it was incredibly sad to see him realize he had to give up the perfect future he was striving for, yet it was the opportunity for him to see what else there was to life. His character growth is incredible, and even through the heartbreaking moments, you know that he will not let it destroy him. He will learn from this whole ordeal, and instead of just living for the future, he’ll get to experience the present, too. To experience life!
Next we meet Sadie. She’s been at Latham for so long that she has stopped looking forward to going home – she doesn’t even want to anymore, she’s finally fitting in! Her illness is not getting any better, nor worse, she’s just floating in uncertainties. She and her group of friends are making the best of Latham, though. Sneaking out, breaking rules, taking risks, standing out; I found this really balanced out the darker side of the novel. They were having fun despite it all, and it made everything shimmer with hope. I didn’t click with Sadie right away, though, she got on my nerves when she was giving Lane the cold shoulder over something the supposedly did years ago. As if it wasn’t super obvious what had really happened if only she thought for a second. Fortunately she realizes this fairly quickly so my eye rolls soon faded, and before I knew it I found myself adoring her. Not only were both main characters brilliantly characterized, I was also made to care deeply for their whole group that was so full of personality. The characters don’t end there, either, we have a complete boarding-school-like dynamic with different cliques and beliefs. Even the teachers were made to be distinct and memorable.
Romance is also a fairly large part of this book, and it’s one that is crazily bittersweet. With death looming on all of their heads, you can’t help but feel as if they’re doomed from the start. You can’t have a book based around a cruel illness without expecting heartbreak. But still, you just never know, this may just be an obstacle they can both overcome, you know! The hope for a happily ever after is ever-present, and it makes the romance glow with anticipation and longing. It was sweet, romantic, and their connection easily felt. Still, due to the impending gloom and doom I kept myself from falling too deeply.
As much as this novel is about sickness and death, it’s even more about second chances and finding your own strength. It does pull at your heartstrings, throughout, but romance as well as a nice touch of humour keeps it from being overly depressing. Very much recommended for fans of tragic YA fiction.
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