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 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.
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"!
I'm a high school English teacher and lover of the BBC and Old Time Radio. 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.
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.
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.
This book kept me hooked just by the fact I wanted to know "what is going on here". Benson is an orphaned teenager who has been tossed from foster home to foster home and just wants a better life. He applies to a boarding school in hopes for that better life. When he arrives he finds out this is no ordinary school and he is trapped. I was constantly guessing to try and figure out what or who was imprisioning the students all the way to the last sentence of the book. I wanted to jump in and help Benson escape. His determination kept me rooting for him. Narration was done and paced well. I think this is a book my boys would like because the romance factor is very limited and it is fast paced. Must read the next book. I have to find out what happens.
PJV Quickie: Sticky on the believability factor but high on the entertainment scale, VARIANT by Robison Wells had me engrossed from the beginning. But, I’ll admit I was cross comparing it to a few other Young Adult Dystopian novels as I read.
Benson Fisher, the main character of Variant is your typical lost boy. He is a product of foster care, doesn’t fit in at any school he goes to and is resigned to the fact that his life is messed up before it has even begun. Until he gets a scholarship to Maxfield Academy. Which, is surprising since his grades aren’t that good and he lied on the application. But, who cares about that. He’s about to go to a great school.
He is all excited, until he is dropped off at the front gates and his ride high-tails it out of there without a backwards glance. Maxfield Academy isn’t a school, it is a prison, with no guards but the children within the walls. There is no way out and the people within can’t be trusted. There are rules on top of rules to be followed and if you break those rules…you are never seen again.
Sounds exciting right? It is. The book keeps going and going, it sucks you in from the beginning and has excellent pacing in the beginning. I enjoyed Benson and the way Robison Wells developed his character, in the beginning. He was likable, even in a very tumultuous plot. The story was filled with suspense and hidden compartments which kept the book interesting. But, what I keep mentioning is…in the beginning. Then it gets to a point where Benson just turns into a very dumb character, his actions are dumb, selfish and illogical. Because of his actions the plot progresses, but it is obvious that his actions were written to carry the plot instead of a logical character reaction.
Then you are hit with the big surprise of the plot, which I won’t reveal because of spoilers, but with the reveal, the main character again reacts differently then I would have expected. Everything does seem to converge in the end — but then that is it, the end. Most of the plot is still unresolved with the ending of this book, so while exciting, it left me with a feeling that I put a book down in the middle and then lost the book…or forgot about it. Which isn’t that favorable a feeling for me.
I would recommend this more for younger boys, instead of the usual Young Adult fans. In fact I would probably put this in categories of Middle Grade instead of YA, just because of the similarities in crafting. The male lead and the sketchy plot will probably leave the usual young adult dystopian fans lacking. They might also find the strong resemblance to THE MAZE RUNNER also a bit on the distasteful side. Fans of Middle Grade, male leads, ages 11 – 15 should enjoy.
Similar Young Adult Dystopian Novels & 3 Star Ratings:
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1) by James Dashner
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) by Patrick Ness
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