As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 5, 2012

VARIANT by Robison Wells, 2011

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. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Megan Hutchins

Describing this book without spoilers is actually painful.  The cover warns you to "Trust No One," which is pretty good advice.  Benson, the main character, is a foster kid who thinks he's finally gotten a break with his scholarship to a ritzy private school.  Except the school isn't what the advertisements claimed -- he's locked in, there are no teachers, and the "classes" cover random subjects.  The other students debate why they're there -- training to become super soldiers or a grand scientific experiment -- but neither explanation makes sense.

Benson has no friends in the outside world, but he'd determined not to stay.  People argue for and against staying, and that debate is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book.  Why leave?  Where is there to go?  Why risk the punishment of an escape attempt?  On the other hand, no one ever gets a pass out of the school.  Staying means accepting imprisonment.

There's a lot more I want to say about this book (including shaking my fist that the sequel isn't out), but I wouldn't want to spoil the book.  The pacing is tight, the clues are well-hidden, and Benson's a character worth following.  The economics of the school is interesting, and there's plenty for my brain to chew on while my teeth are working on my fingernails.  In short, this was a wonderfully executed book with hefty mid-book twist that made for a fast, enjoyable read.  I have no actual data points, but given how quickly I devoured this, I think it would make a great pick for reluctant teen readers, as well.

Market: YA
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Abandonment, identity

Book formats:

1 comment:

Alice said...

I've got to read this book!