Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.
Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return. But what lies at the end of Pansy’s journey might not be exactly what she had expected—or wanted.
Description taken from Goodreads.
Extraordinary is one of those books that I feel like I could’ve loved in elementary school but is ultimately not for me at this point. My problems with the story weren’t necessarily because there’s anything wrong with the book, but because I came in with two incorrect assumptions:
The first one has to do with target audience and age of the protagonist. I thought this was middle-grade. It’s not middle-grade. The protagonists are in fifth grade, and they read like they’re in third or fourth grade. Because of that, if I was to recommend this, I would recommend it to lower middle-grade readers.
Unfortunately, while I’m on the topic of the characters, the cast lacks the maturity of their age. There are books where the main characters feel like teenagers, feel like middle-graders, but this isn’t one of them. The voice and narration was very unnatural to me, and the events of the plot held no substance. Things happened, were supposed to have some sort of meaning, and then quickly moved on.
However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the plot and the characters. Extraordinary struck me as the friendship version of Tricia Clasen’s The Haunted House Project, which was one of my Tweens Read August picks. Even though it was cliché in many ways, the friendship between Pansy and Anna was fun to read about. I also loved the coming-of-age nature of the story, which brings me to my second point.
I went in expecting Extraordinary to be a book about friendship. I love reading about friendships, especially broken ones, in middle-grade and YA, but more than anything else, Extraordinary is a coming-of-age type of book. Pansy grows tremendously over the course of the story, becoming her own person and learning how to live with the idea of not always being with Anna. That’s not to say they don’t end up together in the end. They go through their own share of troubles, but they have an incredible bond with each other.
In terms of the supporting cast, I adored the good family relationships in the story. There’s no Disappearing Parent Syndrome for Extraordinary. Anna’s problems tie in her entire family and Pansy’s entire family, and Pansy’s parents play strong roles as her supporters. This was great to see when much of middle-grade lit is moving toward stories where parents play minimal, if any, roles. The teachers within the story weren’t particularly memorable either, but I enjoyed their roles and support while I was in the story.
Also, on a side note, what kind of fifth grade class is still learning the multiplication tables for 2? I know personal experiences aren’t always accurate, so I took a look at IXL and they should be learning decimal/fraction multiplication and division, as well as exponents, probability, and ratios. I’m nit-picking, but it was little details that made this book seem younger than it’s intended for.
Strangely enough, by the end of the story, I realized that when I started this book, I was looking for another book along the lines of Jenny Han’s Shug or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. Both books are very deep and poignant, talking extensively about friendship, loss, and coming-of-age. Granted, those books are more middle-grade than children’s, but I would probably think of them first if someone wanted a recommendation. Overall, Extraordinary was a decent read, but I would only recommend for younger middle-grade readers and children’s lit readers. 2 stars.