Robyn Schneider's 'Extraordinary Means' Is Coming, And We Have Goods From The Book! — EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT AND COVER

If you're into John Green, Ned Vizzini, Jay Asher, Huntley Fitzpatrick, and The Breakfast Club , you will love Robyn Schneider's debut YA novel The Beginning of Everything. And if you love The Beginning of Everything, you will really love Extraordinary Means, Schneider's follow-up to last year's bestseller. Lucky for you, we've got a peek at the cover and an excerpt from the first chapter of Extraordinary Means, which hits shelves on May 26th.

In Extraordinary Means, Schneider tackles those same weighty themes that she did so beautifully in her first novel — like falling in love, and defying stereotypes, and navigating the difficult, often ridiculous, but sometimes triumphant landscape of senior year — with unfailing humor and compassion. While The Beginning of Everything focuses on a jock injured in a hit-and-run accident, Extraordinary Means chooses Lane, a cute nerd struck with a rare form of tuberculosis, as its unfortunate but extremely lovable hero.

Lane had expected to finish up high school with the same cardboard-cutout kids he's known all his life. But that sudden diagnosis has him packing for Latham House, a boarding school/sanatorium housing scores of terminally ill misfits like himself — including Sadie, who's used her own illness as a chance to reinvent herself.

Robyn Schneider is not only a popular YouTuber with impeccable taste in beauty products — she's a super talented writer who's sure to become a banner voice for this new generation of cool, smart, insightful YA writers.

So without further ado, here is the cover for Extraordinary Means, plus an exclusive excerpt to whet your appetite.

My first night at Latham House, I lay awake in my narrow, gabled room in Cottage 6 wondering how many people had died in it. And I didn’t just wonder this casually, either. I did the math. I figured the probability. And I came up with a number: eight. But then, I’ve always been terrible at math.

In fourth grade, we had to do timed tests for our multiplication tables. Five minutes a page, fifty questions each, and if you wanted to move on, you couldn’t make a single mistake. The teacher charted our progress on a piece of hot-pink poster board taped up for everyone to see, a smiley-face sticker next to our name for each table we completed. I watched as the number of stickers next to everyone else’s names grew, while I got stuck on the sevens. I did the flash cards every night, but it was no use, because it wasn’t the multiplication table that was giving me trouble. It was the pressure of being told two things: 1. That I only had a short amount of time, and 2. That I had to get everything right.

When I finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamed of houses falling into the ocean and drowning. The water swallowed them, but they rose up again from the black depths, rotting and covered in seaweed as they rode the waves back to shore, looking for their owners.

I’m an only child, so the prospect of using the communal bathroom was pretty horrifying. Which is why I set my alarm that first morning for six o’clock, tiptoeing down the hall with my Dopp kit and towel while everyone else was still asleep.

It was strange wearing shoes in the shower, being completely naked except for a pair of flip-flops. Washing my hair with shoes on, and doing it in a Tupperware container of a shower stall, felt so different from my normal Monday-morning routine that I wondered if I’d ever get used to it.

I used to sleep in at home, waiting until the last possible moment to roll out of bed, grope for a clean shirt, and eat a cereal bar on the drive to school. I’d listen to whatever songs were on the radio, not because I liked them, but because they were my tarot cards. If the songs were good, it would be a good day. If they were bad, I’d probably get a B on a quiz.

But that morning, standing at the window of my dorm room as I buttoned my shirt, I felt like an entirely different person. It was as though someone had taken an eraser to my life and, instead of getting rid of the mess, had rubbed away all the parts that I’d wanted to keep.

Now, instead of my girlfriend, and my dog, and my car, I had a pale-green vinyl mattress, a view of the woods, and an ache in my chest.

I’d gotten in late the night before. My parents drove me up, Dad clutching the steering wheel and Mom staring straight ahead as we listened to NPR for six hours with the windows down, not saying anything. Dinner was long over and it was almost lights-out by the time I’d opened my suitcase.

When I finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamed of houses falling into the ocean and drowning. The water swallowed them, but they rose up again from the black depths, rotting and covered in seaweed as they rode the waves back to shore, looking for their owners.

Latham still didn’t feel real. Not yet. I’d encountered it, tiptoeing around the corridors out of sync with the rest of its residents, but I hadn’t yet become one of them.

It was the end of September, and I was seventeen, and my senior year was taking place four hundred miles away, without me. I tried not to think about that as I waited for my tour guide outside the dormitory, in the early-morning chill of the mountains. I tried not to think about any of it, because I was pretty sure the full weight of my situation would crush me. Instead, I thought about wet flip-flops and math problems and my cell phone, which I’d had for a few brief hours in the car, and which had been taken from me upon arrival.

According to my information packet, Your First-Day Ambassador, Grant Harden, will meet you outside your dorm at 7:55 a.m. to take you to breakfast and help you find your first class.

So I waited for Grant to show up while everyone else streamed past me, shuffling toward the dining hall in a motley assortment of sweatpants and pajamas, like we were at summer camp.

Of course Grant was running late, so I stood there forever, getting more and more annoyed. It seemed ridiculous that I couldn’t just find my own way to breakfast, or to Latham’s one academic building, that I needed to be publicly escorted.

I glanced at my wrist: 8:09. I didn’t know how much longer I was reasonably expected to stand there, so I waited another few minutes, then gave up and walked to the dining hall.

It was easy enough to find the place, to pick up a tray and join the line of half-asleep teenagers. I was right; I hadn’t needed some kid to show me around after all. It was just a cafeteria line. I took a bowl of cereal and a little milk carton, noting that my old high school had carried the same brand of milk, featuring this weird, grinning cow’s head. How strange, for everything to shift so drastically, but for the milk cartons to stay the same.

She glared at me, all pursed lips and leathery-tanned skin, waiting. The thought of slinking to the back of the line, with everyone watching, filled me with a sense of horror. She couldn’t mean it. But apparently, she did.

I slid my tray along the counter, past the plates of eggs and muffins and toast. But it wasn’t until I heard someone yell for a friend to save him a seat that I realized my mistake: I was totally alone. I’d been so impatient to get to the dining hall that I hadn’t thought it through. Maybe, if I’d gone into the bathroom that morning along with everyone else, pitching myself into the chaos instead of avoiding it, I could have found someone to walk over with. Now, I didn’t even know who lived on my floor. And I was fast approaching the front of the line, without even a cell phone to rescue me from the total disaster of having nowhere to sit in a crowded dining hall.

I was thinking that I couldn’t have screwed this up worse when the nutritionist frowned down at my tray like I’d personally disappointed her with my choice of breakfast cereal.

“That’s it?” she asked.

“I’m not really hungry.” I never was in the mornings; my appetite usually slept in until noon.

“I can’t sign off on this,” she said, as though I should have known better. “If you’re too unwell to eat a full meal, you talk to the hall nurse before breakfast.”

Too unwell. God, how embarrassing.

“It’s my first day,” I said desperately. “I didn’t know.”

I glanced behind me, uncomfortably aware that I was holding up the line. Way to make an impression. I hadn’t known it was possible to fail breakfast.

Actually, I should have known. Grant should have told me. “You can go back through for some protein. Or you can take a strike.”

She glared at me, all pursed lips and leathery-tanned skin, waiting. The thought of slinking to the back of the line, with everyone watching, filled me with a sense of horror. She couldn’t mean it. But apparently, she did.

“Well?” the nutritionist asked.

I wished I were the sort of guy who’d take a strike, whatever that meant, just to prove that I didn’t have to play by the system. But I wasn’t. At least, not yet. I was a head-down-and-grades-up sort of guy. When the warning bell rang, I hustled. When Scantron tests were given, I brought a spare No. 2 pencil. And so, with everyone watching, I took a deep breath and went to the back of the line.

“That was brutal,” the boy in front of me said. He was my age, a pudgy Indian kid with a pair of old-fashioned glasses and a mess of black hair. Even at eight a.m., he was all nervous energy. “Not many people can say they’ve flunked breakfast on their first day.”

“I didn’t do the homework,” I said. “I had too much on my plate.”

He grinned, picking up on the pun.

“Or apparently, not enough,” he said. “I’m Nikhil. Everyone calls me Nick.”

“I’m Lane.”

“So, Lane,” he said. “Here’s a crash course on meals: You take a dish from each station. You don’t have to eat it all. Hell, you could sculpt the Colosseum out of eggs and toast, but you take full plates and bring back empty ones.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a nutritionist?” I asked.

“Precisely. Which is where the plan comes in.”

“We have a plan?”

“We do indeed. Because lovely old Linda up there told you to go back for more, but she didn’t tell you how much more.”

I saw where he was going with this immediately. “Oh no,” I said. “I’m not really—”

“You’re looking pretty hungry there, Lane.” Nick grinned hugely as he slung a plate of scrambled eggs onto my tray. Before I could protest, he’d topped the scrambled eggs with hard-boiled ones.

I looked down at my tray. The damage was done. I’d been egged. And so, with Nick egging me on, I added a stack of toast.

“Perfect,” he said. “Now how about a muffin?”

He reached into the case and held up an entire platter, offering it to me with a flourish.

“How about two?” I said.

We were halfway to the front when the line stopped moving again.

“You can’t be serious,” the nutritionist said.

Everyone craned forward to see what was going on. It was a girl. She was small and blond, with a messy ponytail. On her tray was a single mug of tea.

“So give me a strike,” the girl said. It sounded like a challenge.

“Go back through.”

“You and I both know there isn’t enough time for that,” the girl said.

It was true. There were maybe twenty minutes before we had to head to class.

“My tea’s getting cold, so if you don’t mind?” said the girl.

She held out her wrist with the black silicone bracelet, daring the nutritionist to scan it. The dining hall was silent. We were all watching to see what Linda would do.

And then she scanned the girl through, typing furiously into the computer bank.

“Strike two this month, Sadie,” she warned.

“Ooh. After my third strike, do I get out?” the girl asked, laughing.

She exited the line in triumph, the mug of tea in front of her like a trophy. As she walked toward the tables, I saw her full-on for the first time. She was a miraculous, early-morning kind of pretty, with a ponytail she’d probably slept in and a sweater slipping off one shoulder.

She exited the line in triumph, the mug of tea in front of her like a trophy. As she walked toward the tables, I saw her full-on for the first time. She was a miraculous, early-morning kind of pretty, with a ponytail she’d probably slept in and a sweater slipping off one shoulder. Her lips were painted red, and her mouth quirked up at the corner, and she looked like the last girl you’d expect to start trouble in the cafeteria on a Monday morning.

But that wasn’t why I was staring. There was something oddly familiar about her. I had the unshakable impression that I’d seen her somewhere before, that we’d already met. And then I realized we had. At Camp Griffith, four years ago. That awful place in Los Padres my parents had shipped me off to when I was younger, so they could go on vacation without me.

“Well, that’s the other way to handle it,” Nick said, interrupting my train of thought.

Belatedly, I realized he was talking about Sadie. “Won’t she get in trouble?” I asked.

“Of course.” Nick snorted. “But Sadie only gets in trouble when she wants to.”

I didn’t know what he meant, and I was about to ask, but we’d reached the front of the line.

“Hey there, Linda. Made you a Picasso this morning.” Nick smirked, presenting the nutritionist with his tray, upon which he’d arranged his tofu sausage, eggs, and English muffin into the unmistakable shape of a penis.

I was scanned through with equal disgust, and was about to follow Nick over to his group of friends, when he gave me a chin nod and said, “You probably want to catch up with your tour guide and kick his ass for not warning you about the food stations, huh?”

“Something like that,” I mumbled. “Well, I’ll see you around.”

Before I could answer, he was gone.

Before I could answer, he was gone.

I stood there alone, trying not to despair as my unwanted breakfast slid around on my tray. It was too dark inside the dining hall, the paneled wood and brass chandeliers swallowing all sense of time. The tables were small, round things. Six seats each, like some disastrous King Arthur’s court. I thought longingly of Harbor High, with its palm trees and plastic-wrapped sandwiches, where my group and I hung out in the little courtyard behind the science labs.

We were the marginally acceptable AP crowd. Liked enough to hold officer positions in the Model United Nations Club, but not on the radar for something like student council. Most days, my girlfriend and I would check homework answers, or study for next period, and we’d pass a can of Coke back and forth while we ate our sandwiches. It wasn’t the kind of group where we hung out at each other’s houses, but I’d never once doubted that I had a place to sit.

I watched as Nick joined Sadie’s table, striking a pose with his breakfast art that made everyone laugh. I understood then that he hadn’t made the plate of, uh, junk food to piss off the nutritionist. He’d made it to amuse his friends. There were still two seats left, but Nick hadn’t invited me to join him, and anyway, they probably belonged to people who were still in line.

I hoped that my missing tour guide would see me standing there and wave me over to his table with a sheepish apology, but no such luck. The 2.5 breakfasts on my tray were starting to get heavy, and I had to put the thing down somewhere. So I took a deep breath and walked to the back of the dining hall like I knew where I was going.

Images: robynschneider.com; Lizzy Newman, Micah Sittig, Jesse Millan/Flickr