Extraordinary Means

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Extraordinary Means Book Poster Image
Charming, if not too original, sick-teens love story.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Many literary references for scene setting, including Great Expectations, Lord of the Flies, Moby-Dick, The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, the poem "The Road Not Taken," and author Kurt Vonnegut. Several French phrases used in French class. Even though the strain of tuberculosis in the book is fictional, the reader will learn a lot about TB and its symptoms, treatments, and drug trials. Author Schneider provides an overview of TB at the end of the book.

Positive Messages

Don't get so busy planning for the life you desire that you don't enjoy the life you're living. Hang out with people with whom you can be yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lane discovers a fun, relaxed side of himself and learns to let go of his hard-driving planning and studying and enjoy the moment. Sadie has created a cool-kid persona for herself at Latham and wonders whether she can maintain it if she returns to her previous life. Dr. Barons makes sure the students at Latham House take care of themselves and take their illness seriously.

Violence

Character recounts story of friend getting jumped and beat up at school. One character is assaulted and seriously injured. A few men follow and menace a teen girl. Several instances of teens coughing up blood. Teen boy punches another in the face. Teens find a dead body.

Sex

Recollection of kids talking about oral sex (they use the term "blow job") and the game Soggy Cookie. Kissing, French-kissing, making out. Teen caught masturbating, and a non-graphic discussion of masturbation follows. Girl sneaks into boy's room; it's not clear whether they have sex.

Language

Infrequent swearing: "a--hole," "s--t" and its variations, "f--k" and its variations, "bulls--t," "hell," "piss," "bitch," "God," "dick," and "slut."

Consumerism

Many brand and pop-culture references: Harry Potter, Pokémon, Mario Kart, Doctor Who, Spring Awakening, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor TotoroSpirited Away, The Princess Bride, Midnight in Paris, Hocus Pocus, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Goonies, Game of Thrones, Cops, Settlers of Catan game, Magic cards, Monopoly, American Girl, Disneyland, NPR, Tupperware, Dr. Martens, J. Crew, Ragú, Moleskine, Applebee's, Starbucks, Tylenol, Milk Duds, Converse, Ugg, Barnes & Noble, Honda, Jezebel website, Facebook, Tumblr, Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, Photoshop, PowerPoint, iPad, iPhone, MacBook, iTunes, Skype, Snapchat.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kids sneak vodka into school on movie night, get tipsy and drunk; teen recalls having beer at a school conference; teens drink rum and get drunk; one character starts using alcohol and then codeine to cope with sadness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Extraordinary Means, by Robyn Schneider (The Beginning of Everything), is about teens sent to a sanatorium because they've contracted a (fictional) drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. The story, told in the alternating voices of the two main characters, Lane and Sadie, depicts the love and friendships among the teens and the way they cope with their illness. Teens sneak out, drink, sell contraband, and carelessly expose others to their illness. The author uses many pop-culture references, almost to the point of distraction. The story shows some kissing and making out, but it's not clear whether two characters have sex. Swearing is infrequent and includes "s--t" and its variations, "f--k" and its variations, "a--hole," and "bitch."

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byJflores14 September 2, 2015

Beautiful story of sickness, self-discovery, and first love

This teen book is a swoon worthy read. It is very fun and also tragic at some moments. I would recommend to to fans of the fault in our stars and all the bright... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAnaSofiaHerazoC August 24, 2016

Great

I haven't finished the book yet, but I still wanted to give my opinion. I think the book is great. Sometimes they swear a little but the rest is fine. I re... Continue reading

What's the story?

In EXTRAORDINARY MEANS, Lane is sent to Latham House, a sanatorium, because he's contracted total drug-resistant tuberculosis, a fictional strain of the disease. His high-achieving life and dreams of early admission to Stanford are upended. Even though the academics at Latham House are far from rigorous, Lane works away in his room, trying to keep up with his AP studies and SAT prep. At Latham, he meets Sadie, whom he remembers from middle school summer camp. She's been at Latham for a year and a half and likes to break rules and push boundaries to cope with the inevitable boredom of being cooped up on campus. Lane falls in with Sadie's crew of friends, and the two fall in love. Looming over the teens is the fact that not everyone survives his or her time at Latham.

Is it any good?

Teens cope with illness, create diversions, wrestle with self-doubt, and fall in love in this charming, light read. Author Robyn Schneider creates an interesting urgency to the characters' lives by putting normal teens into extraordinary circumstances at a sanatorium for teens who have a (fictional) strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The dialogue among the kids is authentic and witty; it's the best part of the book. The characters all are likable, and Lane's growth is believable and well realized. The possibility of a cure creates excitement and a race against the clock for some of the patients.

The chapters alternate between Lane and Sadie's narrations. However, even though they have different points of view (Lane is new and grappling with having his academic dreams derailed; Sadie has been at Latham for a long time and has become jaded, her rule-breaking veneer hiding her health fears and self-doubt), their voices are not as distinct as readers would expect. And most of the other characters and plot seem generic, with the drug-resistant TB and sanatorium being the only twists, making it difficult to get emotionally invested in the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the pressure to achieve. Do you feel pressured to do well in school and activities? Do you feel pressure from yourself or others?

  • Sick or dying teens is a common thread in many books and movies. Why do you think people like these stories so much? Do you find them interesting or inspiring?

  • Are you more of a "live for the moment" or a "plan ahead and work hard" kind of person? What are the pros and cons of each type of life philosophy?

Book details

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