Teenage love stories that simultaneously confront the frailty of life–you’ve probably read a few of those lately. In a story that is like a fanfic mash-up of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means offers a contemporary, pop culture reference filled, easily accessible story of battling disease and living life to the fullest despite the circumstances.
Seventeen year old Lane is an overachiever completely focused on excelling in school so he can get into Stanford, but his life’s plans are derailed when he contracts tuberculosis and his parents send him to Latham. Seventeen year old Sadie has spent the last two years of her life at Latham, sequestered away from the general populace with other teens who suffer from a new drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, but she hasn’t let her seclusion and stagnant prognosis keep her from living as normal a life as possible. When Lane arrives at Latham and comes across Sadie, they are both thrown back four years to their time at summer camp together at the awkward age of thirteen, when admitting you have a crush is tantamount to torture. With medical sensor bracelets tracking their every move and heartbeat, Lane, Sadie, and their friends try to bring a sense of normalcy into their otherwise terminal, dreary lives through typical teenage rebellion against the rules, even if it could kill them.
Through writing that is realistic and honest, with an alternating point of view narration, Schneider provides a holistic view of the tragic situation at hand. The prose is a combination of cheeky wit and introspection, without an abundance of teen angst. The subject matter is a bit heavy, yet the humor of the protagonists offers some levity to temper the circular nature of life and death. The characters of Lane, Sadie, Nick, Marina, and Charlie are incredibly detailed and realistic, which helps readers more easily identify with them and sympathize with their struggles. The abundance of contemporary references practically makes the book read like someone’s Tumblr page, which makes the narrative more relatable and offers a framework from which to build.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.