My first contact with Extraordinary Means was several months ago when I heard it described as a less pretentious, more realistic version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which pretty much tells you all you need to know. It’s a medical romance kind of thing, but the illness is a fictional form of Tuberculosis and the story is told from dual points of view without any rose-tinted glasses.
So much of Extraordinary Means is just fabulous, from the characters to the writing style to the plot. Our protagonists Lane and Sadie are one of my favourite pairings, and as well as being just the cutest couple I thought that their individual journeys of coming to terms with their disease were very moving. We also got a fantastic array of diverse secondary characters too. Sadie and Lane’s friends were great and I was drawn into their lives and wanted to be a part of their adventures. Their dialogue seemed very natural – something not every author is able to nail.
However, what I loved most about Robyn Schneider’s story is that it doesn’t romanticise illness. Her prose is very smart and emotive without saturating it with highbrow language and extended metaphors. It’s grittier and more down to earth despite revolving around a fictional strain of TB and there is an excellent balance of everyday teenage drama and enough medical terminology to remind you that some characters’ days are numbered. There is also plenty of humour to be found in amongst all of the angst, I promise you, but don’t assume that this in any way guarantees a happy ending.
To begin with I did question the point of having Sadie so angry at Lane over something which, if she’d stopped to think about it, had obviously been a misunderstanding. There’s no denying it added to the romance by having the love/hate relationship change and grow throughout the novel, but when something seems obvious to the reader you cannot help but ask yourself why the characters haven’t caught on yet.
For someone who doesn’t read an awful lot of contemporary novels Extraordinary Means really stood out in my mind, which is why I have to give it 4.5/5 stars. There was something incredibly moving about the way all of the kids in the story understood that the odds were against them but refused to accept this morbid turn of events lying down. Plus it raised some interesting points about balancing a childhood with the need to stay healthy, sort of bringing ethics and such like into the mix. If Schneider continues to write stuff this good I may yet become a convert to contemporaries.