Thursday, 28 May 2015

Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Publication Date: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 336 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

When he's sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over.
But when he meets Sadie and her friends - a group of eccentric troublemakers - he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn't have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.
Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.

I knew very little about this book when I came to it, it was a case of a truly beautiful cover catching my eye and launching straight in, but from the outset I was hooked. I loved the concept - a sanatorium for modern teens struck down by Total Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. It was an idea I haven’t seen before and Schneider tackles the idea with a brilliant mix of humour and grace. You know from the outset that not everyone is going to make it out alive and that leaves a bitter-sweet and poignant feeling as you read that reminds you that life is for living in the moment, not for a possible someday, and this group of teenagers do everything they can to seize the little moments that raise life out of the depressive state that can so easily be sunk into with a long term illness.

The dual narratives were wonderfully handled, offering two very distinct voices to two very different characters. Lane is a driven grade A student, living life for the future and doesn’t know how to deal with the ‘setback’ of his illness. Whilst Sadie has been ill for so long that she can only live one day at a time, the future is an unknown thing that cannot be planned for. They come together to teach each other about seizing each day and living life in a series of moments, rather than planning for a someday future. My only frustration was that Lane didn’t ever seem particularly ‘sick’. He pushes it a little too far at one point and you do see a decline in his health, but compared to the other characters he never seemed to struggle, never really had off days and points where he had to rest. I wanted to see more of that, otherwise it didn’t feel real that he was in this place.

It’s not just about Sadie and Lane though, they are surrounded by a wonderful cast of characters. I really loved getting to see little bits of their characters and how they came together to form a cohesive whole of a group. I could have done with a little more backstory and time on the rest of the friendship group, as it felt more as though they were there to act as a background group rather than an actual set of people with hopes and dreams and wishes.

I loved that the novel had an ‘invisible illness’ at its heart and that it looked not only at how hard it was to live with this on a day to day basis, but also how hard it was to look to the future with the illness constantly lurking in the back of their minds, how that would hinder some plans for the future. But also how others treated those with TB. How some exploited it, how others didn’t know how to deal with it or relate to those stuck in Latham. It was such a refreshing change to have a YA novel tackle something like this, and to do it so well.

If you’re a fan of John Green you’re basically going to love this, it felt a little like a mash-up between ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and ‘Looking for Alaska’. However non John Green fans will also love this. It’s a fresh and interesting plot, a whole heap of sadness but also ultimately about living each day to the full and not letting life pass you by.


  1. Thanks for the lovely and insightful review of a book that I've had on my radar for a couple of months now but wasn't sure if it was something I really needed to read or not....... you have me convinced that I probably should so thanks so much xx

    Thea @  Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

    1. Yay so glad I have convinced you! I can't wait to hear what you think of it! Thank you so much for reading. :)

  2. I want this book sooo bad. Mostly for the incredible cover. OKAY FINE. Like 99% for the cover, but also because if it's like John Green, then I'm so so in. I'm realising there's a lot of like illness books coming out lately, right?! I just finished one about a dude with an allergy to electricity (Because You'll Never Meet Me) which was heartbreaking but also sweet. :') I really want to read Extraordinary Means!!

    1. The cover is GORGEOUS, and is about 99% of the reason I wanted it in the first place... But the insides are SO GOOD, which makes it doubly awesome. It has all the things I love about John Green's books, but Robyn puts her own unique spin on it all. There are a lot of books like that at the moment, I've got 'Because You'll Never Meet Me' on the to read pile and I cannot wait to get to it - even more so now you've said it's good!