book reviews

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

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My Rating: 8.5/10

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider was an amazing book. I have related that until very recently, it’s been hard to engage with YA titles. Lies We Tell Ourselves broke that streak and Extraordinary Means makes it two for two.

Extraordinary Means is set in a world much like our own but a recent epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis has broken out in the United States. The recent outbreak has led to the rise of sanatoriums to house those afflicted with the disease until their TB is labelled inactive. Latham House, a sanatorium for teens, is the primary setting for this story. The narrative begins with Lane who had just started his senior year when he comes down with the disease.

I have to admit that when I first saw this book at Barnes & Noble, I was apprehensive in buying it. Though the cover and overall premise managed to grab my attention, I couldn’t help but call back Asylum by Madeleine Roux which also had a sort of dormitory as its main setting (granted Roux version was a past asylum where Schneider’s was a past prep school). I didn’t much care for the Roux’s book and opted to instead check it out of the library in fear of regretting the purchase. I now find that I probably would have been content in purchasing the book if I gave it a chance.

I loved the characters in this book. I found each of them rather relatable and I greatly enjoyed seeing them change as the narrative went on. The story is primarily told through two perspectives. There’s Lane who is so focused on his plans for the future with college and profitable internships but realizes when he comes to Latham that he should take more time dealing with the present. The other half of the story is narrated by Sadie, a long term resident of the school who hangs out with the mischievous “cool” crowd but has suffered her fair share of bullying in the past. It should come as no surprise that these two characters fall in love though oddly enough, I didn’t mind it. To be truthful I quite enjoyed it (which is not something I often say) because the characters and romance was handled in such a way that I believed it. It was fun seeing how these two characters played off one another especially in the framework of the wider group dynamic.

I also appreciated that other notable characters were quite diverse. I particularly loved Marina’s, Nick’s and Charlie’s characters, I loved that they weren’t simply defined by their particular racial and gender identities. My only main nitpick is that some of the characters remained kind of static throughout the course of the novel. Another one of them had me wondering if they were truly going to be okay by the novel’s end because despite the resolution, it didn’t leave me feeling all too good for the particular path of said (intentionally unnamed) character.

The plot progression was also really nice. I felt legitimately concerned with the fate of all those who lived in Latham house. The group has to contend with real questions concerning the future and the probability of their own mortality. Though they try to make the best of their time there in the boundaries of the stifling rules Latham sets up, they still can’t help but be weighed down by the fact that they exist in a world that would still be wary of their presence even when they are released and deemed non-threatening.

Despite this, I will admit that you could tell where the plot was going when most of the major characters were introduced. I was deciding whether or not this counted against the story but in the last couple of pages, it did manage to surprise me how the plot achieved its ends.

I really liked this book. Though I have a few nitpicks here and there, I was ultimately hooked from beginning to end. If you’re a fan of John Green books I would definitely pick this up. If you want something that may make you cry, also pick up this book. I’ll definitely be looking out for this author in the future.

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