Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Release Date: June 4th 2015
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 336
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Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: A bitter-sweet, coming-of-age novel that’s perfect for fans of John Green and Stephen Chbosky.

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.

Review: Extraordinary Means is another truthful, powerful and heart-wrenching story from the author that brought us Severed Heads, Broken Hearts.

This story begins with Lane coming to Latham House, a sanatorium for teenagers who are suffering from a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis. Lane is determined to continue on with his life’s plan, to study hard, to achieve his goals and he sees Latham House as nothing but something that is getting in the way of his goals. Then Lane meets the charismatic Sadie. He knew Sadie years ago, and she has transformed into a confident, mysterious and somewhat rebellious girl - one that may just transform his journey at Latham House.

As Lane and Sadie become closer, we start to unravel many of the issues that these teenagers, and the sanatorium, are not dealing with. According to Latham, the students are there to rest and have the best possible chance of recovery, but to Lane it is a place that is stopping him from achieving his goals and to Sadie, it is the place to be the person she has always wanted to be.

Told in alternating points of view, we see the world through the eyes of both Lane and Sadie, two very different people, and who take you on two very different journeys through their eyes, illness, hopes and dreams.

The character growth throughout this story is phenomenal. Especially when it comes to Lane. Prior to being diagnosed with tuberculosis Lane had his life on track. He is a straight A student and his plans are to continue to get the best grades so that he can go to the best school. He has his whole perfect life mapped out in front of him. But his illness, and his experience at Latham changes him. He starts to understand that he may not be able to continue to be the perfect student and have a perfect future… and he realises that he may not want all that after all. As he grows his view of the world starts to change and he finally starts to live life, rather than planning for it.

And for Sadie, her growth was also phenomenal but in a much subtler way. Sadie’s illness is getting no better, but yet no worse, and she is quite okay with that. Sadie is actually happy at Latham as she if finally fitting in. She left behind a life where she felt like an outsider, like a nobody, but at Latham she can be whoever she wants. She has a great group of friends surrounding her, who understand her. Sadie’s growth comes for the strength she builds, and the strength to take her life back into her own hands.

Along with all the darkness and sadness that surrounds the illness aspect of this book, there is a much lighter side. The characters in this book have fun, despite their situation. They break the rules, they sneak out, they defy the social norm, they take risks with their life and their heart – they are taking control of their own happiness in a very terrible situation. And the fact that they can do this provides even more hope than the possibility of a cure.

And speaking of hope – who would hope to find love in such a misery filled environment? But this book is filled with it! The friendships in this book are achingly beautiful – they are truth, honesty, respect, painful, fun and fear. And the romance – the best description would have to be “bitter sweet”. To fall in love in such a situation is a small miracle in itself, but yet in a situation filled with so much fear about, and for, each other… sigh.

Extraordinary Means truthfully exemplifies the struggles that teenagers face when their life has been turned upside down by an incurable illness. And through both Lane and Sadie we get to experience, or witness, all the things that is encompassed in such a situation; denial, acceptance, death, hope, friendship, frenzy, turmoil, trying to take control.

This book is just filled with so much hope and strength. How these teenagers deal with having an incurable illness, being away from family and friends, being shunned by the world in general, and facing possible death – it is astounding. With real and conflicted emotions, high and lows, fear and hope, Robyn’s writing style is easy but respectful, sensitive but honest.

In the face of death, these teenagers will find a way to live. Extraordinary Means is a story about waiting for a life-changing, spectacular, grandstanding miracle, and realising that it is the small, unnoticed miracles that can really change your life.



“And the thing about trying to cheat death is that, in the end, you still lose.”

“That’s all you can do in this world, no matter how strong the current beats against you, or how heavy your burden, or how tragic your love story. You keep going.”

“Being temporary doesn’t make something matter any less, because the point isn’t for how long, the point is that it happened.”

“There’s 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.”


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