REACTIONS – Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Goodreads description: 

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. 

  • Things I loved: There was terrific imagination and thought given to this topic of tuberculosis in the present day. It’s incredibly relevant to discuss infectious disease given the fairly happenstance hysteria over various maladies. While some mania has been a bit much bordering on offensive and others should be discussed more in many households, this topic of an untreatable infection has been explored time and time again throughout books and movies. I love Schneider’s choice to center this topic around young adults being alienated from society – for good reason. So often in YA we are treated to adolescents who are treated poorly because adults just don’t get them. Here you have kids removed from society for their benefit as well as society’s. It’s an interesting and unique conflict where there is no clear villain yet very real pain. The teenagers were not, in fact, caricatures, and nothing felt over-done or unrealistic – quite an achievement given that their school and this scenario is fictionalized (though based on past historical events).
  • Things I have question about: I can’t quite discuss my questions too fully without spoilers, but I think some of the points I bring up in a previous post might apply here. Any time YA or kids’ books deal with illness or death can be tricky, yet I think Schneider handles it tastefully.
  • Bottom line: Definitely a book for John Green fans, people who enjoy alternating POVs, and anyone interested in going down the “what if” path about infectious diseases without venturing into full-out dystopia.
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