Sunday, April 12, 2015
Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Author: Robyn Schneider
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Published Date: 4 June 2015
Pre-Order: Amazon | The Book Depository
I received this book through NetGalley from Simon & Schuster (Australia) for review.
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. (summary from Goodreads)
Extraordinary Means is an honest and surprisingly terrifying, beautiful and tragic novel.
Knowing that Extraordinary Means is the story of two teenagers with a deadly disease falling in love, you expect heartbreak going in. You're ready for a certain tragedy. In this way, Extraordinary Means has an element of predictability. Yet Schneider still builds to this moment, this inevitability, in such a unique and confronting way as to be original and shocking. In creating a fictional disease, total drug resistant tuberculosis, Schneider is able to not only write about its impact on the teenagers that suffer from it, but about society's reaction to such an epidemic, the desperate race to find a cure, and the effects that has on these teenagers. Schneider has crafted a terrifying plot that underscores the sad fate and bittersweet romance that is Extraordinary Means. The reality of lives cut too short, of enforced isolation, of the fear people have of the disease and these kids, even the way the teachers react to the possibility of their deaths with less school work, adds an unexpected layer of desperation to this story. The lyrical prose and dark humour - yes, it's funny! - add to its beauty and poignancy. The emotion of this book is authentic and powerful, and many times I found myself awestruck or in tears. I certainly couldn't put it down.
Extraordinary Means alternates between the points of view of Lane and Sadie, who have such completely different personalities but compliment each other perfectly. Lane thought he had everything, had his whole future mapped out before he got sick, and wants nothing more than to get better and get back to that life. Even after getting sick and moving to Latham House, he works so hard at sticking to his plan. Meeting Sadie and her friends though, Lane learns to appreciate life. It's not facing the possibility of death, but the bonds he forms with these characters that teaches him the true meaning of life, and I adore that. It's so much more real and moving. Sadie on the other hand felt she was no one and had nothing before the tuberculosis. At Latham she's grown into herself and formed true friendships. Sadie has a darker outlook on life and the disease than Lane. She's given up hope, but worse, is actually afraid of getting better and returning to the 'real world'. It's such an interesting and sad contrast, that the girl who is afraid of living teaches Lane what that actually means. It's why their developing relationship is special and touching. They offer such vastly different views of life and the world that you can't help but be affected, to feel like you're being changed by this book and these characters. You will cry for these characters, you will laugh with them - a lot, I might add, as their friends are quirky and hilarious - and you will fall in love.
Robyn Schneider's Extraordinary Means is a gorgeous, one of a kind, memorable read.