Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider is a hard story to sum up in one post – it is full of love, pain, resentment, choices, acceptance, loss and hope. For a young adult novel it’s pretty powerful stuff, and it’s not always an easy read. 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.
It’s a romantic novel by trade, but, really, it’s much more than a romantic novel. It’s a story of love, loss and life for teenagers that are sick and quarantined.
When he’s sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over.
But when he meets Sadie and her friends – a group of eccentric troublemakers – he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn’t have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.
I read Extraordinary Means at the start of the year, not long after I lost someone myself. And reading this book brought back some of those feelings for me. And, I must add, it had a similar effect on me that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars did.
I hurt for the characters. I hurt for their predicament and for their losses, but the book also made me a bit angry at first. It made me look at books like If I Stay, The Fault in Our Stars, etc. and, at the time of my own grief, forced me to come to the realisation that these stories accurately (and annoyingly) demonstrate the injustice and unfairness of real life.
It frustrated me – it just didn’t make any sense. Why would the world bring these two people together, make them fall in love, open up to one another, make them feel like they were meant to be together and then just… pull them apart?
It wasn’t fair. What was the point?
At the time, I felt sad and frustrated with Extraordinary Means. It took me some time to figure out the point that Schneider was trying to make. A message I could only begin to understand and accept after and until I had undergone the process of healing my own broken heart, which was this: It isn’t about how much time we have, but rather it’s about what we choose to do with it. That’s the point.
The thing about Extraordinary Means is that the story of love and loss is relatable, even more so, I think, than it is in The Fault in Our Stars, which makes us react so strongly to the story. We need to feel that pain and that loss. It needs to hit so close to home in order for the message to be so powerful and poignant.
“Being temporary doesn’t make something matter any less, because the point isn’t for how long, the point is that it happened.”
― Robyn Schneider, Extraordinary Means
Just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. Sometimes it actually makes us appreciate it more.
And to be honest, by all accounts, it doesn’t matter if it lasts a day, a year or a lifetime. What matters is did you give it everything you had? Did you make some amazing memories? Did you not let your fear hold you back?
Some people can have more adventures, more history and more memories in five weeks than others can have in a lifetime. It just depends on how you use that time, what you do with it and who you spend it with. These are the things that matter, the things that make a difference.
I have one more thing I want to add about Extraordinary Means – when authors write a story that is a little hard to swallow because its main message surrounds itself with pain, they never fail to leave us with a sliver of hope. A reminder that despite all the pain and injustice and cruelty in the world there is hope.
In The Fault in Our Stars, Green gave us the message that love and pain are always linked and how one cannot exist without the other (see my post on that here). So if we’re hurting, it’s because we had someone worth loving.
With this novel, Schneider’s parting message of hope is this:
“That’s all you can do in this world, no matter how strong the current beats against you, or how heavy your burden, or how tragic your love story. You keep going.”
― Robyn Schneider, Extraordinary Means
The loves we lose will always be an epic love. They may even be the One. But contrary to popular belief, there are actually multiple Ones. The only way to find another is to let go, move on and keep going.