Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Saturday, 25 July 2015
Extraordinary Means, by Robyn Schneider
Publication: May 26, 2015, by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

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. 

My Thoughts:

I'm fidgeting as I begin to write this review, mainly because I CAN'T GET THIS BEAUTIFUL STORY OUT OF MY HEAD. As The Beginning of Everything, Robyn deals with another new subject with her satisfying, fresh writing in the style of John Green. Except, her writing has so much more philosophy and realism than most authors, and it hits me pretty hard, and then I act all depressed and don't feel extraordinary at all. Lane and Sadie's relationship will never leave your heart.

When I officially heard about this book being released, I threw a huge dance party beside my books, telling my other Robyn book that she'll be getting a new friend to stand beside forever. (I have to go purchase a copy of this though because I read it from the library.) Yes, I was that excited. This book is full of excitement, though mostly in the middle where both Sadie and Lane discover affection and more-than-friends thoughts between each other. But please remember that it's a fucking sad read. I hadn't physically cried on the outside, but I was moody and bawling on the inside. Guess who went straight to bed afterwards of depression? You've got it, me. Oh-so-depressed-lover-of-Robyn's-books-me.

"Here's a secret," I said. 'There's a difference between being dead and dying. We're all dying. Some of us die for ninety years, and some of us die for nineteen. But each morning everyone on this planet wakes up one day closer to their death. Everyone. So living and dying are actually different words for the same thing, if you think about it." (Hardcover, page 96)

And then obviously I began to slowly die and think about dying in the literal form. *cries* Written through two perspectives of the primary characters, Sadie and Lane, this focuses on tuberculosis and how it impacts all 150 people who are in the Latham School. Of course, we find a new boy who's exploring his illness in a human way? I guess he is. Lane came from being this-close to getting into Stanford early admission and he was in the AP program when his life was all turned around in an instant. He goes into Latham and meets Sadie, remembering her from camp back when they were eleven. Sadie has a huge impression of Lane being some stupid guy who almost ruined her life back when they were kids, but as they both discover the truths of each other, they fall in love until some force takes them apart.

The deaths in this book don't sound like those produced by the disturbance between a romantic relationship. Robyn added so much humour into her writing, as well as sweet sayings that had readers even forgetting about what is yet to come. I FORGOT THAT THE SUMMARY MENTIONED SOME LIFE-RUINING EVENT WAS COMING. And then it came, hit us all hard when the best part of the book felt like it was about to hit us and the romance was expanding into our hearts... and then it was over. Schneider's writing holds so much philosophy and gets me crying.

"Except Latham was my normal now. And being healthy, being okay, wouldn't feel normal at all. It would feel incredible." (Page 61)

Her writing is smart, thought-provoking and unforgettable. Everything about the writing and actual phrases was ultimately close to home and to my heart. I can't complain about anything in the sorts of her structure or the way she tried to get characters and events to match readers' lives. And the fact that she had experience and actually learned about these kinds of things in university? That's the kind of research that I adore, similarly to I.W. Gregorio and None of the Above. Where do I begin with the romance? 

Lane and Sadie were adorable. They had distinct personalities that made them: chill, spunky and with the ability to have fun. Want the pure definition of teenagers? Them and their crew. I loved their perspectives and they made everything seem so much better although their situations weren't too good at any time. The negative factor which disrupted my rating was the secondary characters. Nick, Marina, Charlie... where were the details about their lives? Those cute conversations where they talked about their issues? It seemed like the whole story revolved too much on Sadie and Lane, and I do admit that this kind of gets to me. Sure, we know the basic things: Nick's alcoholism, Marina's...? (I didn't like her) and Charlie's sickness. But other than that, I was left with nothing but dust in my eyes when reading about them.

Extraordinary Means really left me with depressive thoughts. But don't worry, I'm not turning into a gloomy person for the rest of my life. The ending did hit me so hard, but I wanted more from the characters. Perhaps a small novella will hit me harder and make them all feel loved by readers? Other than that, my life depends on Robyn's writing, and I need more, pronto. WE'RE ALL NEEDY OF THESE KINDS OF BOOKS TO GIVE US INFORMATION ON REAL-LIFE SITUATIONS. Lane and Sadie, you're a powerful Romeo and Juliet-like couple, I love you. 

What's one of the most deep-insight reads you've read?


  1. This book seems like an interesting, and more honest take, on the whole 'diseased teenager' genre which seems to have actually become a thing. I haven't heard of it, like basically all the books you review, but, again, like a lot of the books you review, it definitely interests me. The two quotes you posted are pretty great and surprisingly bleak and brutally honest. I don't think I've read a YA book that has lines that brutal. That definitely attracts me to the book. Also I'm glad you said the romance worked. So often I find that romance in books can feel forced, so it's good that it worked for you here. Thanks for the review, I'll definitely check it out if I can find a copy.

    Also if you're looking for more stuff that deals with the inevitability of death the movie Synecdoche New York might be good. It's directed by Charlie Kaufmann and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and follows a play director as he attempts to put on the biggest show of his career. It's a beautiful and honest portrayal of how we all not only fear death, but fear dying without achieving our dream or finding someone who understands us. It's very artsy so if you don't understand all of it (I know I didn't) a guy called YourMovieSucks on YouTube is going a great series of videos where he analyses it. Anyway, I really loved that movie and while it's very heavy going, it's really beautiful and touching, and my enjoyment was really enhanced after watching the analysis videos. I'd highly recommend it.

    1. I once suspected that no writer could possibly accomplish the diseased teenager subject quite as well as John Green, but it turns out that Schneider did just a good job. I LOVE THE FIRST QUOTE I POSTED! It's one of the most memorable quotes I've read in a while. You really should check it out, as well as Schneider's The Beginning of Everything, which is a little more cutesy and easy-going, but just as well written.

      I love those deep concepts, how did you know!? That movie sounds awesome and super super DEEP once again. You're so cool, finding all of these movies and books that I've never heard about haha. I guess we learn from each other continuously! I'll definitely check it out, see if they have it in the library or online! (I'll watch the analysis too, thank you so much!)


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