Variant by Robison Wells

Benson Fisher thought 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.

Synopsis sourced from the authors website (

The Young Adult dystopian genre has really picked up steam over the past 18 months, so it was about time that I checked one of them out. Variant by Robison Wells tells the story of a young foster child named Benson who wins a scholarship to attend a prestigious school, only once he gets to the school he finds out that they are all trapped and are the subjects of some sinister test program. Variant came to me highly recommended from a bunch of authors and it is easy to see why, it is a fast paced psychological thriller that makes use of some cool sci-fi elements to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The plot of Variant is actually a pretty simple one, a streamlined effort to allow for maximum pace. Boy goes to special school, boy gets trapped in school, boy tries to escape from school. This is by no means a bad thing and I think it has an appropriate level of complexity for both the target audience and the type of story Wells is trying to tell. It's just that it feels like Variant plays it safe when it comes to plot, and while the other elements make up for the lack of risk taking in the story, and while there is a big plot twist about halfway through the story, it doesn't really change the over goals of the main character and so a lot of untapped potential is left behind that could have been exploited.

Where Variant truly shines is with the characters Wells has crafted and the way in which they interact with each other and world around them. Benson is the gifted yet troubled teenager who grows nicely from the selfish headstrong survivor he is and wants to be, into the selfless hero and leader he needs to be. He is thrust into a world that is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, complete with teenagers isolated from the world who form gangs when forced to fend for themselves. While there are a some other great characters worth mentioning, it is the gang warfare that takes centre stage. The way Wells plays with the dynamics between each of the gangs is fascinating to watch, and the psychological warfare between the gangs and their members can be brutal at times. If that's not enough, the school administrators who are acting as Big Brother, will administer psychological tests of their own designed to make the gangs work together or against each other, applying pressure to the already strained relationships.

The writing here is pretty slick, enabling a lot of fast paced action sequences. A lot of the prose and dialogue is stripped back here so that we can really focus on the action and consequence nature of this book. While I would have preferred some more witty dialogue and banter between the characters I don't really have a problem with the writing. The book is fun and easy to read with a focus on action, it is exactly how I think a Young Adult book should be written.

I really expected to enjoy Variant, and I am glad that my first foray into Young Adult dystopia didn't disappoint. While Wells may have played it a bit safe, the fast paced action and the psychological warfare made this a fun book to read that I could not put down. If you have a teenage boy, chances are that they will love this book.

9/10 Fast paced action and psychological warfare made this a fun book to read.

Review by

3 positive reader review(s) for Variant

Variant reader reviews

from United States

I think the book was exceptionally great! I couldn't put the book down whatsoever!
10/10 ()

from Mexico

Amazing truly I couldn’t put this book down the plot the twist the everything just made this book my favorite. This is a book I really recommend for anyone who really has a hard time to find a book that really grabs there attention. I think this book has a little bit of everything romance, criminal,scary, just everything. I really hope y’all enjoy this book as much as I did. I recommend this book because I have a hard time getting a book that just gets me into the story and this book did that. It was my first chapter book that I read that I wasn’t forced to do. 100/100 because this book truly deserves it all. And it would be really cool if they made they movie because it was such an amazing book!!!
10/10 ()

from Canada

I honestly dislike reading books. I’ve read a few that were good but nowhere near as good as The Variant. I couldn’t even put this book down. The way the author describes each scene makes me visualize everything so clearly. I literally had a mini mental breakdown at the end because I found out it’s a cliff hanger and I have to read the sequel. I’m still looking for the sequel book because I really need to know what happens next. I recommend everyone to read this book! It’s honestly so different and plot twisty.
10/10 ()

from Canada

I think 'Variant' is a very amazing book. My friend told me to read it,and I'm glad I did.It's a very interesting,and twisted book.I was hooked instantly.The details made me see everything I was reading,I felt like I was in the book.I think every kid from grade 6-9 should read 'Variant'.
10/10 ()

from Nebraska

“Don’t worry, Benson,” Mason said. “Just stay close to the rest of us. The gangs have a truce, and they won’t start anything big. I nodded and stood, walking to the small window. I could see a ;large window. I could see a large track behind the school, an miles and miles of forest. I'm going to get out of here I said. Mason shrugged. Everyone says that.” Quoted from my one of my favorite books of all time Variant. Variant is an intense, twisted story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is such a great book and really hard to put down. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be in a strange school trapped by a razor wire fence where video cameras monitor your every move. When reading this book you'll feel you're there with character feeling the way he’s feeling fearful, trapped, anxious, scared. In this book you’ll never know what shocking twists will happen. This book is filled with plot twists and so much suspense.
10/10 ()

from USA

I love the plot twist and I loved Benson at first but then Becky was my favorite character. (The second book Feedback is good too)
10/10 ()

from NZ

'Variant' by Robinson Wells is a science fiction novel for teenagers. Benson Fisher is a 17 year old boy who applies to a school called Makfield Academy. When he arrives he finds out it wasn't what he'd thought it'd be. I would highly recommend this book for 10-11+ because it has quite scary parts. This book is amazing, if you pick it up you can't put it down. Robison is an amazing author, he makes you feel like you're there. The only bit I'd get him to work on would be making it more unfantasized.
10/10 ()

from America

My teacher had us read this book. At first i complain a lot because i didn't think i would like it at all, but once we started reading it i couldn't stop. I finished the book before everyone else and i couldn't wait to read the next book. It was fast paced and the action in it was good. The story line was great especially with the twist at the end of the book. I think anybody would like this book. It has a little of everything. I can't wait to read the second book or any of his other books. I hope you injoy the book as much as i did.
10/10 ()

from UK

It was amazing and of course my favorite character is Benson Fisher and how he is so brave in the story.
10/10 ()

from USA

This was a great book and I really enjoyed reading it! The suspense and the ending and everything about it was just AWESOME! TEN OUT OF TEN RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!
10/10 ()

from Florida, US

l love this book, it is way better than part t2o and it is so interesting, and creepy. l enjoyed reading this book so much and I really don't like reading.
10/10 ()

from Great Britain

10/10 ()

9.9/10 from 13 reviews

All Robison Wells Reviews