I started this book sitting in a bookstore and before I knew it I was in the third chapter. When I finally got my own copy and sat down to read it in earnest, I ended up finishing the entire thing in one sitting. Which is always a good sign.
The story is an interesting one. It’s a fictional account of a future in which tuberculosis has evolved into a new strain for which there is no treatment. Back in the 19th century, before the discovery of medicines to treat TB, patients were sent to sanitariums – the idea being that the fresh air and relaxation would help patients fight off the disease. It also had the benefit of quarantining TB patients and reducing the spread of the disease. This fictional future sees the return of sanitariums as, once again, medical intervention isn’t able to help.
Our protagonist, Lane, has just received a TB diagnosis when we tune into his story. He’s headed to Latham House, which is kind of a cross between a boarding high school and a sanitarium. All the other patients are kids around his age, all of them are sick, and yet they have their own rhythms and place in the social strata of the school.
Lane feels out of place. He doesn’t know the rules or how to deal with his new health status. He’s also a straight-A student bound for a prestigious college, and is one of the few teenagers who isn’t happy to coast through easy courses and use his illness as an excuse to avoid homework. So settling in takes a while.
Of course, there’s a girl. A girl Lane used to know at summer camp – and who isn’t crazy about seeing him again at first. But eventually Lane wins her over and becomes part of her group of outcasts Latham starts to be, if not fun, at least not quite as miserable.
I don’t want to say much more for fear of giving away the story. I will say that I enjoyed Schneider’s imaginary TB future. It helped that she has a background in bioethics and therefore knows what she’s talking about, disease-wise. I worked at a lung health organization for a while, and so this is an area I know a bit about too. Her future isn’t out of the question. While TB isn’t a major concern for most of us in the western world, that’s not the case if you look at it worldwide. And the rise of MDR-TB (Multi Drug Resistant TB) is a scary precursor of a disease mutation that could very well leave us with little recourse against a resurgence of the disease. It’s a scary and not impossible scenario.
In addition to a great premise, I loved Schneider’s character development. I became fully invested in Lane and his friends, and I felt like I knew them by the end of the book. This came as a relief after my experience with her previous book, The Beginning of Everything, where I had trouble connecting with her female lead character.
This is a great book to pick up if you’ve got a few hours to spend reading. It was a perfect readathon pick for me! You’ll find yourself easily drawn in, and the plot moves along at a fast enough pace to keep you interested from the first page to the last.
From the author of The Beginning of Everything: two teens with a deadly disease fall in love on the brink of a cure.
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. – Goodreads
Book Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Published By: Knopf
Released: May 26, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Medical
Date Read: October 17, 2015