Jul 7, 2015

All The Nerdy References, or A Review of "Extraordinary Means" by Robyn Schneider

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for Extraordinary Means. If you are currently reading or plan to read this book, please read on at your own risk. Full disclosure: I have known Robyn Schneider personally for many years, but I was in nooooooo way asked to write this review our compensated in any way. I didn't even get a galley this time around! (JK, love you Robyn!)

I love the way Robyn writes. On one hand, she writes with such a heart and such an intelligence you can tell she is whip smart and has a lot of emotions about her characters. On the other hand, she writes the nerdiest nerd books for nerds who nerd.

Much like her previous book, "The Beginning Of Everything," this newest novel is a YA story where something sad/tragic brings unexpected adventures and young people together. But that is truly where the similarities end because "Extraordinary Means" is about loss and love and understanding that the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Lane and Sadie are living two completely different lives but with the same diagnosis (the fictional disease 'total drug resistant tuberculosis') and in the same place (a sanitarium called Latham House where young people are sent to relax, take part in light exercise and "learn").  They've met before, but their memories of each other are very different indeed.

Once they do become friends, a romance quickly blossoms. The supporting  characters at Latham are also cool: there's the intellectual gamer, the recording artist, and the anime girl to name a few. I told you: with nerds, for nerds. I want to focus on why this book is worth your time, however.

Lane is a typical Type A kid. When he arrives at Latham he still thinks he needs to maintain his perfect scores, his perfect record, and that he can still get in to the best school. What he learns is that this will not be his path because he had TDR-TB. Sadie, who has been at Latham for over a year when Lane arrives, has accepted that the life she had will not be her path, so she decides instead to become the MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) trope and redefine herself. Both are scared, but both need each other and that need is what is explored in their story.

I loved how even though a lot of these themes and ideas exist in other books, they've never been explored through the narrative of a sanitarium or during an outbreak of a contagion. It's also set in the present day, and as I mentioned earlier packed with nerdy references galore, as opposed to some weird dystopia where the contagion was the government's plot all along (shock! gasp!).

In telling this story, Robyn really taps into why it is better to have loved and lost than not to have even tried. Also important: the characters who do not survive TDR-TB aren't pained as tragic: they're shown as examples of how we can all choose our own path and that every day we have matters.

I liked this book more than TBOE. When Robyn first told me about what she called "the severed head book," I was excited for her, but I wasn't anxious to get my hands on it. About a year later, she mentioned she was working on something with "terminally ill teens" and "vampires with tuberculosis." My first reaction was to make sure she knew she would have stiff competition: after all, John Green's "The Fault In Our Stars" had been set for publication at that point and we knew it was about two terminally ill teens. She assured me that this was different and that she could tell she was on to something. It was that response that made me far more excited for what would become Extraordinary Means.

I am so proud of all that she has accomplished, especially this book. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a new twist on a YA novel,  or anyone who is a little dystopia'ed out. And for those non-YA readers out there: this is a great breezy beach read.

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My review for "Invasion of the Tearling" by Erika Johansen should be up tomorrow. Happy Reading!