Tag Archives: Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of Everything… (does not necessarily happen at the beginning)

oscar wilde

“Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, […] That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary — a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”

Thus begins, Ezra’s tale about the tragedies in everyone’s life, and how that can really throw your previously predictable life for a curve. His best friend’s (Toby’s) tragedy was catching a severed head on a Disneyland ride at the tender age of 12 — he was forevermore an outcast. Ezra’s tragedy was catching his girlfriend in a compromising position with another guy, which sent him rushing to his car, and soon after a horrible car accident. Before the accident, Ezra was the most popular guy at his school, played tennis, and pretty much had everything handed to him on a silver platter. But after the accident, his fake friends continue to be self-absorbed, he no longer saw himself as the cool tennis-player (is there such a thing, anyway?!), and joined the nerdy table with Toby. This is a lot to take on during one’s senior year of High School.

However, the silver lining (at least until the “tragic” part) is that Ezra meets this new girl who transfers to school — a pretty little red-head who is completely different than anyone he’s ever met. Suddenly he’s okay with being distanced from his former life… because his new life with real friends, and the debate team, and being able to use big words and speak his mind, is so much better than the superficial world he used to live in.

Still, I had issues with this new girl, Cassidy, all along — sure, she was smart, and sassy, and fun, and unpredictable. “As always, she left me wanting more, and dreaming of what it would be like if I ever got it.” … but it was also pretty obvious she had issues and that things were not going to end well for Ezra and her! She was full of half-truths or simply didn’t want to say anything about herself — I didn’t feel that made her mysterious, it made her kind of irritating! But Ezra clings to her and her tragedy for dear life — he not only wants to make amends, he wants to fix her… and he can’t… and for a long while, this troubles him greatly.

“It was as thought I’d gone off on epic adventures, chased down fireworks and buried treasure, dance to music that only I could hear, and had returned to find that nothing had changed except for me.” He seems sad about this revelation… but it seems to me to be a good thing at this point in his life. He’s simply growing up — unfortunately, no one else is. And even though he seemed to think Cassidy was the reason for his sudden maturity and self-realization, she was’t. “She lent a spark, perhaps, or tendered the flame, but the arson was mine. Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spent a long time existing, and now, I intend to live.”

In the end, this is not your typical YA love story… it’s not even a tragic love story, as we might first assume from Ezra’s introduction. It’s really about how his life took a turn, and so he changed. It might have been painful, it might have been difficult, and at certain points, it might even have been heartbreaking… but it simply allowed him to grow up and start to live.

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Reading Wonderful YA Fiction!

YA Fiction

To kick off my summer, I am focusing on what I love to read best: Young Adult Fiction!

Thus, I have had the pleasure of reading:

* Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen… ok, so this is actually middle grade fiction. But it is indeed awesome! Gabby Duran is just such an entertaining character, and once the story line pulls you in, you simply need to sit and read all the way through! Who doesn’t enjoy a good story about the best alien babysitter in the galaxy?

* Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane is a great reimagining of Alice as a teenager joining a group of eco-vigilantes in an effort to teach her town how to be friendlier towards the environment. But does such a noble cause really excuse their extreme and rather illegal means?

* Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, which was so amazing, it needed its own entry!

These book reviews should be appearing sometime soon in the San Francisco Book Review.

Happy summer reading!

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Extraordinary Means: On Self-Discovery and Second Chances

extraordinary means quote

“The life you plan isn’t the life that happens to you.”

Lane knows all about planning: he is the ultimate overachiever – his schedule is jam-packed with AP classes, study sessions to increase his SAT scores by just a few more points, and anything else that might boost his college résumé so he can impress the admissions board at Stanford. Meanwhile, Sadie is his polar opposite: she’s a fun, live-in-the-moment kind of girl, who spends her free time taking artistic photographs in the woods, and doesn’t quite set her sights on a future that may not even happen.

Yet as different as they are, Sadie and Lane do share something in common: a deadly and drug-resistant Tuberculosis strain, which is how they both end up at Latham House – a kind of boarding school for those so close to dying young, hoping to find a cure away from their friends and family who they wouldn’t want to infect. But instead of the dreary and morose atmosphere that might accompany a building full of the terminally ill, Sadie and her friends bring Lane into their roguish group, to wander the woods, smuggle contraband into their dorms, and find ways to undermine the constrictive rules of Latham: they choose to live, while they still can.

In Extraordinary Means, Robyn Schneider explores the idea of living life to the fullest, when we may not really have the time to lead a full-length life – the idea of getting a second chance to live life on your terms, for as long as you possibly can. This is what Lane discovers while being with Sadie, Nick, Charlie, and Marina – despite being terminally ill, they do not spend (all of) their time dwelling on what they no longer have, but instead on celebrating what they can still accomplish… even it’s as simple as stealing Internet access from the librarian!

“I realized then that I hadn’t had a life, I’d just had a life plan. […] I didn’t want to spend the next six years falling asleep at my desk with headphones on to block out the noise of everyone else having fun. I didn’t want to rush through all the moments that I wouldn’t know I wanted until they were gone.” Once he manages to slow down – and not necessarily by choice, but doctor’s orders – Lane discovers what he’s been missing: fun! He learns that breaking rules is enjoyable, having real friends to talk to and joke with feels great, and that connecting with others who share the same disease that could kill you, isn’t so bad. Turns out taking a step back from burning the stick at both ends, is even good for Lane’s overall health.

Unfortunately for Sadie, her experience isn’t quite the same. “I was living with TB, which is better than dying from it, but month after month, my X-rays and blood tests came back the same. And I didn’t know which change would be more terrifying, the death sentence I’d been dreading since sophomore year, or the ticket home to a life I’d missed far too much of to ever fully recover, and a world that would always treat me as an outsider if they knew.” While for Lane, Latham is a temporary escape, for Sadie, this is really where she feels most like herself, knowing that not only would the outside world keep her at arm’s length because of her illness, but also that she couldn’t be the confident, rule-breaker she is at Latham anywhere else.

Nonetheless, throughout the various interactions between this band of happy-go-lucky cool kids of Latham – both the mischievous and the heart breaking – Robyn Schneider highlights an important message: “Being temporary doesn’t make something matter any less, because the point isn’t for how long, the point is that it happened.”

Extraordinary Means is a beautifully told coming-of-age love story, which tugs at your heartstrings, while deepening your appreciation for those who matter right now.

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