Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means is not your typical coming-of-age, boarding school love story.

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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

Like I said, not your typical boarding school romance.

Lane is a newly diagnosed Total Drug Resistant-Tuberculosis patient trying to understand how his rigidly planned future, previously made up of AP exams and early admission to Stanford, crumbled into automatic A’s, mandatory rest periods, and unlimited sick days.  Miserable at Latham, Lane yearns to be a part of a quirky group of students who seem unaffected by their quarantined surroundings (a la The Secret History by Donna Tartt or The Likeness by Tana French).

Sadie is one of Latham House’s longest staying residents.  Neither improving, nor declining, Sadie is in a sort of stasis watching the other patients come and go – patients who overcome the (fictional) TDR-TB and go home to their regularly schedule lives and those patients who do not . . .  Despite their potentially bleak future, Sadie and her friends rebel in the only way they can – arguing with the lunch lady, refusing pajama parties in favor of black-tie affairs, and sneaking out into woods to secure contraband for their fellow students/patients.

Schneider has created a fragile, yet beautiful story of a group of friends staring into the void of an uncertain future with nothing to cling to but each other.  (Speaking of uncertain futures, I can’t wait to read We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach #Squee).  Schneider executes the dual point of views like a pro. Setting wise, Latham House feels real – the school, the woods, the nearby town, it all feels like a place that could exist.  At the end of the novel, Schneider even includes a brief history of tuberculosis and sanatoriums which I found completely fascinating.  It’s easy to fall in love with Lane, Sadie, Nick, Charlie and Marnia – you’re rooting for them so completely but you know in the end, it can’t last forever.

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Also – so many Harry Potter references *flails*

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Extraordinary Means hits shelves May 26th, 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books.  Thank you Little Shop of Stories for the opportunity to read and review this lovely novel!

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