Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape - his only real hope for survival - may be impossible.
©2011 Robison Wells (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers
I read and review Young Adult lit!
I have to admit I didn't see the twist coming. Yeah, maybe it was a little silly but it was interesting enough to make me want know more.
That is why I am *really* annoyed with the cliff-hanger ending. It is such a cheap crutch for writers to use that on principle I usually give the book very low marks for it and don't bother with the rest of a series, knowing I'll get more of the same.
However, I might give the next book a go when it comes out because I am genuinely curious!
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I will say that this YA novel kept me entertained during a long drive. The setup is intriguing enough: a teenage orphan from Pittsburgh named Benson looks to escape his dreary life by winning a scholarship to a high-end private school in New Mexico. However, upon arrival, he finds that Maxfield Academy contains no adults, is full of security cameras, is surrounded by a high wall, and has a few simple rules that students must never, ever break. Cue shades of Lord of the Flies, Never Let Me Go, and the TV show Lost, as our protagonist learns that the students have organized themselves into different factions, some bent on following the rules, some out to cause mayhem, and some with more pragmatic ideas. The truce that exists between them is tense at best, and Benson must choose his allies and adversaries carefully. Not everything at Maxfield, of course, is what is seems, and, like Lost, it had me hooked.
Well, for the first half. Unfortunately, the twist that comes later would have been inexcusably silly in a grown-up novel. Then again, this is a book for younger readers, and I doubt too many will be concerned about that, or even recognize the creative property that Wells is, um, inspired by. The target audience will probably eat up the who-can-we-trust suspense, the action sequences (including paintball, of all things), the likable, outcast hero, and the romance.
All in all, probably not the most interesting or well-written YA dystopfic out there, but a perfectly readable entry for those who can’t get enough of the genre. Parental note: there’s some PG violence, one implied-but-not-discussed sexual encounter between secondary characters, and no bad language.
This book was incredible. I mean, there have been storylines where people ended up where they didn't want to be, but this was written so well. The main character realized right away that something was wrong with the school he was sent to. When he asked the other students, they agreed but they had plausible reasons for sticking around. A lot of books have one character who has some common sense and all the other characters who appear clueless. Some stories have main characters who make really stupid decisions. In Variant, Benson's actions and reactions were believable. I can't say I saw the "explanation" coming. Once it was revealed many things made sense, but there were still many curiosities. Apparantly, there will be sequels to explain them. I look forward to them.
I only have two complaints:
1. The last few lines were very important, yet I had no idea who was speaking.
2. Why do I have to wait so long for the next book?
Great job Robison Wells.
I love the BBC and British mysteries, but my tastes are very eclectic. I live with my husband and menagerie of rescued cats and dogs.
I am a high school English teacher, so I read many adolescent novels trying to find something that I think my students might like. When I stumbled on this book on a whim, I found a real gem. First, the story is entertaining. This is not great literature, but I'm pretty sure on one thought it would be, and it is very engaging. I recommended this book to a self-professed non-reader in my class, and after the first night, she came to me saying that she couldn't put the book down; her boyfriend complained that she ignored him to READ. (If you know teenaged girls, you know what a testament to this book that is.) If you're trying to entice a teen into reading for pleasure, I recommend this book. In fact, my student was so taken with the book, she posted her own glowing review at Amazon.
The book did have one point that stretched credulity a bit more than I would have liked, but I was enjoying it so much by the time the "big surprise" was introduced that I was willing to go along. And even my student noted that the paint ball games seemed to go on forever sometimes. Listening to the book as opposed to reading it, I think, helped make those scenes go by more quickly. The narrator was excellent and this book was more along the lines of a performance than a mere reading.
It doesn't have the depth of Harry Potter of the Hunger Games, and the writing is not as polished. But it is great fun you'll find excuses to listen to.
I am a social worker, love running & an insatiable reader. Son 2nd year @Harvard. Daughter in 10th grade. A+ husband (23yrs) LIFE=BLESSED!
I consider the audio edition to be EQUAL to the print edition. With an incredibly will written book like "VARIANT", that's no easy feat!
Following Benson's growth and decision making as his challenges kept getting bigger and bigger. He stepped up to every challenge, and I really could imagine him growing from a boy into a young man by the end.
I was ticked off at the adults, who children are taught to trust and believe only have their best interests in mind, turned out to be their biggest terror and adversaries.
What a fantastic book for my first audible experience. SO well done! Couldn't ask for a better author or narrator!
Good story, draws you in completely. The only drawback is the ending...which does not end. Apparently it is the beginning of a series and I am not sure that I will remember to follow up- although I would like to know what happens! I prefer series that are also stand alone plots.Overall an enjoyable "read"!
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean buyer. If you're a pretender come sit by my fire
Variant is a solid story with interesting characters. It's nothing exceedingly noteworthy, but a good way to pass a few hours. If you like teen-dystopic-fiction, this should be right up your alley.
unexpected unusual unique
unsure if it was ever a book but it reminded me of an old sifi movie logans run
Say something about yourself!
Unexpected twist with an ending that leaves you hanging till the next book. I did not know this was to be a trilogy or series when purchased. After reading the first book I will definitely read the next... got to find out what happens.
Benson Fisher has been in the foster system most of his life. He jumped at the opportunity to get a scholarship to the special Maxfield Academy. A strange woman delivers him to the school where he is surprised to discover only teens – no adults. He quickly learns that he, and the other kids, are trapped but Becky, the girl who is trying to provide orientation, doesn’t seem to care that the school is a prison. They cannot go beyond the high brick walls which lie within the razor-wire fence. There are cameras monitoring their behavior and there is no contact with the world outside.
Although they receive computer announcements and instructions from “the academy” all other tasks are performed by the students. The teens are divided into groups who have contracted jobs to run the school. Initially each of the groups, Society, Havoc and Variant, try to recruit Benson. He chooses Variant hoping to find an ally who might help him escape. Unfortunately, all the kids are convinced there is no escape and if you break the rules you are punished. If you break the primary rules, like trying to escape, you may be sent to detention. And the kids who go to detention don’t return; they disappear.
Benson’s first attempt at escape doesn’t work so he consigns himself to gather information for a better plan. He struggles with the rules and tries to learn how to help his team win at paint ball even when it means he takes a beating. He is befriended by one of the young girls, Jane, who has been there the longest. As they grow closer, she tries to cheer him and get him to drop his dreams of escape. When Jane and Benson are attacked, he learns a horrifying secret. Who can he trust and how can he convince the others of the secret he has uncovered? How can they escape before something more terrible happens?
There is mystery early in the book, but I found the beginning slow to engage me. I became more interested as the action (paint ball battles) picked up. The story slogs through some repetition and teenage angst, but I did get to a point where I wanted to find out what happened. There is a scary twist and confrontation as the end nears and then another twist at the cliffhanger ending.
Benson is a bit self-centered and impulsive... like many teens. Even though I am not enthralled by the characters, there are many questions left open at the end of book one. Although the second book seems to have more mixed reviews and I didn't feel this quite rated a 4.0 rating, I am leaning towards getting Feedback (book 2) because I am curious to know where the author takes the story..
Audio Notes: Michael Goldstrom does a good job narrating the teen characters. He manages to convey the tones of cheerfulness, fear, bravado, anger, snideness, meanness and other aspects fitting the teens. I think the audio version helped me move along in the story which might have been more difficult in print/ebook.
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