Sometimes, I really want to like books more than I do.
Are you ever disappointed with a book not because it’s bad, per se, but because it’s not what you thought it was? That’s how I feel about Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. One day, I decided to browse the internet, searching for novels about tuberculosis. I wanted a book about the struggle between life and death, about your own body betraying itself. I wanted a novel that questions life and love and the unfairness of dying young. I wanted a book that would touch my heart and make me question everything. Mostly, I wanted a book about the terrible disease known as TB. Extraordinary Means popped up so I thought I’d give it a try. What startled me was that upon reading it, I soon discovered that this novel does not take place in the early 20th century: it takes place in the present. I didn’t want this to turn me off, but I fear that it did.
You see, once, years ago, I read a book set in the 1960s or so about a girl with TB. This book has haunted me since, coming back to me in quick flashes every so often. I wanted Extraordinary Means to be like that. I wanted its theme and characters and plot to stick with me, in my mind and in my heart. Instead, I read a light novel, despite dealing with serious themes like death and morality, that I will probably forget about in a week.
I have a complicated relationship with the main characters, Lane and Sadie. Lane starts off as rather relatable: he is a straight A student who feels so much pressure to achieve and be the best that he forgets how to live. Sadie seems to be this cute yet badass chick– totally my kind of girl. While Sadie remains rather consistent, I ended up liking Lane less and less as the novel went on. By the final chapter, I was yelling profanities at him (out loud). What I didn’t get, no matter how much I tried, was their relationship. I don’t understand why they gravitated towards each other, other than the fact that Sadie is “different” and Lane is some beautiful boy Sadie remembers from long ago. I never saw the connection and sparks between them. Maybe that’s the point: maybe the novel is less about love and more about the human need to cling to life as they approach their death. Either way, I just didn’t get it.
While I appreciated the fact that the novel wasn’t a sob-fest like, say, The Fault In Our Stars (which I still love, so fight me), I was surprised by how not-sad it was. I didn’t cry or even feel sad during any part of it. In fact, I think the saddest I felt was when you get to see how segregated and feared these poor young people are. The plot in terms of who-is-going-to-die is fairly predictable, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit that towards the end, I just kept repeating “nuh uh, you’re gonna die.” Maybe I’m heartless, or maybe I just didn’t care.
The book isn’t all bad. Most of the supporting characters are very likable and interesting. The plot is predictable, yes, but it’s enjoyable. It’s a light ride, as I said before, but I’m sure it probably touches base with a lot of people and can evoke some deep emotions. Extraordinary Means has potential but in my eyes, it just didn’t quite reach what it wanted to achieve. If you’re looking for a lighter read about more than boy-meets-girl or for a YA romance with some deep themes about life and the fear of death, then this novel might be the right book for you.
I’m just sad it wasn’t the right book for me.
2 vodka-apple juice boxes out of 5.