Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, Young adult
Published: June 4th 2015
Rating: 2.5 stars
“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.
Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.”
'Perfect for fans of John Green' is plastered all over this novel and plenty of reviews for it. Whoever first said that was right, but they should have also said that Extraordinary Means is a watered down version of The Fault in Our Stars.
Dealing with tuberculosis rather than cancer and featuring less pretentious (but still just as unrealistic and irritating characters), Extraordinary Means follows a group of sick teens at Latham House, a holding pen for those with total drug resistant TB.
From the start, it's obvious Schneider drew inspiration from Green. Sick teenagers, a nerdy male main character, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who causes trouble and inevitably falls in love with the main character. Give me a break, I beg of you. Throughout the book I couldn't help but compare it to The Fault in Our Stars, and while I enjoyed this a little more, I doubt that's what the author wanted. (But if it was then congratulations, you succeeded.) It wasn't an exact replica, but it was pretty damn close.
While I didn't like what there was in the way of plot, or care for the characters, I felt that Lane and Sadie did have very clear and distinct voices. The writing was decent and the changes in POV weren't confusing or jarring. It didn't take much time (or effort) to get through, and for that I'm grateful because it was just okay.
Nothing extraordinary, by any means.
Friday, 12 February 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Published: August 1st 2015
Rating: 4 stars
“All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?”
As a sufferer of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) myself, I could instantly connect with Evie as a character, and even found some of my own thoughts and insecurities running through her narrative. I liked the inclusion of the 'bad thoughts' and felt that it was very authentic, because that's exactly what they are. They're silly little things that burrow into the tightest corners of your mind and swell, turning into storm clouds or parasites. They grow and grow with the attention you give them until it feels like your head will burst from the pressure and you just have to find a way to relieve it.
I liked Evie as a character. I thought there had been a lot of research put into her and her disorders, and it didn't read as what I call Typically Mentally Ill: when a person with no experience of mental health tries their hand at writing about mental health and fails miserably. I liked the balance between her personality and her disorders; it didn't feel like she was given them just to be 'quirky' but it didn't feel overly dramatic and as if they were the only side to her.
I also loved how passionate she was about mental health and how she didn't sugar coat things. She was frank about mental illnesses making a person selfish, she mentioned how anxiety disorders can make a person manipulative, and she wasn't shy about how people pretend to understand yet disappear at the first sign of outward symptoms. It was a really refreshing point of view to read from.
However, I took a big issue with the title. I didn't like how the word normal was used, and how there was a check list for it. There were a few times - like in the recovery diary - where I felt more like Evie was joking with herself and using a bit of black humour when she used the term normal, but they were fleeting in the scheme of things. Just because you have a mental illness does not, in any way, shape or form, make you abnormal. Yes, it may feel like it at times (I can attest to that) but it is not true. To me, using 'normal' to refer to non-mentally ill people felt like a slap in the face. For the most part I liked this book but I just could not over look that.
I could have done with the feminism being toned down a bit and done in a more subtle way. As it stands, it was glaringly obvious (which isn't a bad thing!). To me, that made it feel like it was being done because it's the 'popular' thing to do, not because it was genuine. That being said, I do think Bourne managed to get across some very important messages, like how feminism is about equality, not 'women are better than men'.
All in all, I liked this. Definitely give it a shot if you're interested in mental health. It's raw and it doesn't shy away from real problems like relapse.