Variant by Robison Wells

(8.5/10)

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 (http://www.robisonwells.com/variant/)

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.

Review by

3 positive reader review(s) for Variant

More Robison Wells reviews


Feedback
8.7

Benson Fisher escaped from Maxfield Academy’s deadly rules and brutal gangs. Or so he thought. But now Benson is trapped in a different kind of prison: a town filled [...]

12+

Variant reader reviews

from United States

I think the book was exceptionally great! I couldn't put the book down whatsoever!

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!!!

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.

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'.

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.

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)

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.

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.

from UK

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

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!

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.

from Great Britain

AMAZING!!!AMAZING!!!AMAZIING!!!

9.9/10 from 13 reviews

Write a reader review

Your rating out of 10

Books you may also enjoy

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothi [...]


Published: 2006

Score: 113

Our rating: 10.0 | 13 positive reader reviews

15+

1984

by George Orwell

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels ag [...]


Published: 1949

Score: 103

Our rating: 10.0 | 3 positive reader reviews

15+

Metro 2033

by Dmitry Glukhovsky

The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boun [...]


Published: 2005

Score: 108

Our rating: 9.9 | 9 positive reader reviews

15+

Swan Song

by Robert McCammon

Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the Pres [...]


Published: 1987

Score: 127

Our rating: 9.8 | 29 positive reader reviews

15+

The Last Man Standing

by Davide Longo

Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo wa [...]


Published: 2012

Score: 97

Our rating: 9.6 | 1 positive reader reviews

15+

Skyward

by Brandon Sanderson

Spensa's world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to de [...]


Published: 2018

Score: 94

Our rating: 9.6 | 2 positive reader reviews

12+

The Chimes

by Anna Smaill

A boy stands on the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain.No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment.No directions, as w [...]


Published: 2015

Score: 96

Our rating: 9.6 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

Animal Farm

by George Orwell

Animal Farm is set in a farmyard where the animals decide to seize the farmer's land and create a co-operative that reaps the benefits of their combined labours. Howeve [...]


Published: 1945

Score: 137

Our rating: 9.5 | 42 positive reader reviews

12+

The Drowned World

by JG Ballard

Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows [...]


Published: 1962

Score: 95

Our rating: 9.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+