Extraordinary Means is a beautifully-written and bittersweet novel by Robyn Schneider.
When Lane is sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, he thinks his life may as well be over. But then he meets Sadie and her friends – a group of quirky troublemakers – and he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn’t have to define you, and that falling in love might be its own cure.
From the moment I started reading this book, I just knew I was going to fall in love with it. I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. There was just something about it – whether it was the beautifully-created characters, the John Green-esque feel, or the general idea, I’m not too sure. All I know is this: Extraordinary Means is truly extraordinary and I urge all of you to pick it up.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the setting. Everyone knows that some of the best books are written where kids or teenagers are at a boarding house or any like place and are forced to deal without their parents’ guidance, like Harry Potter. This book was precisely that. It takes place at Latham House, somewhere where sick teens are sent to try and get better. It’s a mix between a morbid summer camp and a boarding school. The setting worked perfectly for the plot and I loved the idea of these kids being sent to this place to try and recover from a physical illness. I have read plenty of books where people are sent to facilities to either get better from or learn to deal with their mental illness, and so it was refreshing to read about physical illnesses in this type of a setting for a change.
I feel like a lot of YA readers are often sheltered from the harsh reality of physical illnesses. There aren’t all that many YA books that deal with physical illnesses, apart from cancer. It was extremely interesting to read about tuberculosis, which is the illness the teenagers in this novel have. I didn’t know anything about this illness and I feel like as well as enjoying the story, I learnt something too. I think it’s great that Robyn Schneider tackled writing about TB both realistically and with a bit of humour so that the story wasn’t just a cry-fest. Of course, this book wasn’t 100% true because that particular strain of TB doesn’t exist and neither do some of the things that occur in the book, but this novel felt very well researched and I felt as though the author clearly knew what she was talking about.
Extraordinary Means is a beautifully written book. There were so many beautiful and quotable moments and this book was so grabbing and I couldn’t put it down. I also really loved the ending of this book, even though it made me shed a few tears and stare at a wall for half an hour, thinking of what an amazing and emotional book that was. I really needed time to process what I had just read because it was so stunning and I could hardly believe how much I loved it. It’s a gorgeous book that reflects what the most important things in life are, how things don’t always go according to plane, and how we must always have hope.
The characters in this book were quirky, realistic, flawed and fantastic to be around and get to know. I really related to Lane. He was focussed on his work and he was trying to work towards his goal. The fact that he was always studying and not wanting to do much else made him get sicker, and I found it really interesting when he finally learnt that sometimes we have to take different roads from the ones we initially planned going down. I think that I’m really similar to Lane in the way that sometimes I’m so focussed on one thing, something that I want to achieve, that I’m so blinded to the things around me, it’s like I have no peripheral vision. So in that way, I really related to him and I loved getting to know him better. In some ways, him realising that he had to ‘turn off’ helped me realise that some of the things I stress and worry about don’t actually matter in the end and that I should focus on more important things, like my friends and my family and my health.
I absolutely loved reading about the people that Lane meets at Latham House. The most prominent of these was Sadie. She was free-spirited and did what she wanted without seeming to care. She was like the splash of colour in the otherwise grim and grey Latham House. I loved her energy and her willingness to do anything to make her friends smile. She was a lovely, kind and considerate person. Seeing as this book is told from alternating perspectives, I loved hearing her voice first-hand and she is a very entertaining person. Some of the scenes between her and Lane are the best scenes of the entire book and them together is what makes this book fun and they add sprinkles of humour to the story. Without these little funny moments or witty lines, this book could have been just a ‘sad book’.
Gosh, so many interesting characters I want to write about! Nick was probably one of the most complicated characters in the book and I enjoyed him being there. He really added drama to the novel and while I didn’t particularly want him intruding on particular things, I cared about him and wanted him to be happy. The love he had for Sadie was so obvious and it broke my heart to have him being head over heels for her and she not even taking a second glance. I know what that feels like, and in that way, he was really relatable. I could also understand why he did things to deal with his problems and that also broke my heart, though it seemed very realistic and for that I loved getting to know him. But he wasn’t at all brooding and sad, he was goofy and funny to be around. I know I could count on him to make me crack a smile.
Charlie was definitely one of my absolute favourite characters. I can’t help but fall in love with the quiet, sad, skinny and artistic one. There was something about him that just made me want to hug him and work on his music with him and he was just my type of guy. He was always the most sick out of all the characters and I knew things weren’t great for him, but I couldn’t help but get attached to him. He was one of the most beautiful people and I really loved how he channeled his emotion into his songwriting. The only character that I didn’t really like was Marina. She didn’t feel like she was in enough of this book for me to really get to know her, even though she was a part of the whole friendship group that Sadie had going on. I never felt like I understood her, only that she liked Doctor Who, so I guess I liked her because of that. However, her friendship with Sadie didn’t seem all that deep and I didn’t care much about her.
I completely loved the ending of this book, even though it made me cry and it was pretty sad. But I like sad. I always think that sad is happy for deep people. I think that might be a line from Doctor Who. But it’s true. There’s that bittersweet feel to the end of this novel and although there is tragedy and although it’s devastating, the messages it contains about living your life and loving what you do took the pain out of the grief. With this type of book, death is inevitable and I thought that this aspect was written extremely well, as with the rest of the book. Overall, I’d completely loved reading Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider and I’d give it a score of 10 out of 10. If you like The Fault in Our Stars, I highly recommend reading this book. If you’ve read this book or are considering reading it, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Don’t make this a one-sided conversation 😉
A huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for proving me with this book in exchange for an honest review!