Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Me on Extraordinary Means

Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

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.

Extraordinary Means is an intriguing look at disease, at the different ways we live, at the different definitions we have for living, and at the second chances we get when it looks like our first is about to run out.

Lane is new to Latham House, a tuberculosis sanatorium for teens. He doesn't want to be there, doesn't want to be sick, and he doesn't understand the doctor's orders. Think of Latham as a vacation? as time away from school to rest? Lane has plans. College, summer internships, business or law school. There's no time for him to be sick, to take nature walks or long naps. He can't be left behind. He can't stay there. He needs to get back to his life.

Sadie is sarcastic, creative, and fearless, but more than a year in Latham House has changed her. If she was sent home, would she know how to life? She acts like her life is on hold, like it will always be on hold. Like she's now living this alternate life of sneaking out, sneaking in contraband, and never taking anything seriously. But then she meets Lane, someone who wants out, someone who wants to go back to their life outside of sickness, and Sadie realizes that life inside Latham House isn't life.

I found the disease, the completely fictional completely drug resistant tuberculosis, rather intriguing. TB attacks the lungs, attacks young people, settles in them and halts their lives. And then what? Lane and Sadie's lives are stuck on pause, waiting. Waiting for anything. To get better, to get worse, a cure. But until then, all they can do is wait. What about their lives? They're stuck not moving forward, not learning, not experiencing all the crap that teens experience. Instead of something, there's nothing but a narrow bed, a wait, and a tissue to cough blood into.

I think a lot of this book is about second chances, about what we do in order to feel like we're alive. At the beginning, Lane's attempts at normal wear him down. He has to keep up with school, he just has to, but it makes things worse. Sadie sneaks out and sneaks contraband into Latham House in order to make it feel like the outside world, but it never really does. There are still alert bracelets and nurses, still confining walls and well-meaning doctors. It's not living, but Lane and Sadie try and make the best of it. Until everything changes. I do think fans of the author's previous book will enjoy this as well as contemporary YA fans looking for something a little serious.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

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