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
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.
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!
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.
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
The narrator was not suited to be a teenage boy. Instead, it just felt awkward listening to an obviously adult man reading the story.
The plot was out of control, almost as if Wells wanted to take it in a hundred different directions at once.
Anyone who could pull of a young narrator.
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.
Variant is an easy, undemanding read featuring a slow burn mystery and a plot that, if not unique, flows. It is the first in a series and, although abruptly ends with a 'big reveal', has enough surprises to keep the reader following the story. A lack of sappy romance lifts the book but savvy readers will soon realize this twist has been done many times.
Plot: Benson has been shuffled between foster care parents, mostly cold and abusive individuals who just want an extra unpaid hand around the house/work. So when he finds and wins a scholarship at a prestigious boarding school, he jumps at the opportunity. But once he's inside, he finds a micro society run by the students and monitored from afar by the adults. There's no escape from school and he must find his way among gangs, violence, and rules that, if broken, mean you disappear forever.
Benson is a relatable character and the author does a good job of bringing many interesting personalities into the mix. I felt the plot had been thought through and definitely enjoyed the mystery and the tension as Benson has to quickly adapt to the prison in which he is thrown.
As with all of these type of teen books, I really have to suspend disbelief that the people running the prison are stupid enough to let events happen as they do. As well, the final mystery reveal was extremely disappointing - we've seen this plot before (specifically, a 1970s movie with the exact same twist, but with a community of adults). In fact, the ending was so unoriginal that it took all interest away from me wanting to continue the series further.
Note: I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did a decent job.
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