A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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."
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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?
Themes & Topics
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