Thursday, February 7, 2013

Variant ~ Robison Wells review

Variant (Variant #1)
Harper Teen
September 26, 2011
373 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Living in foster care and stuck working, without pay, in the gas station owned by his foster family, Benson Fisher thought the scholarship to Maxfield Academy was going to save him. Little did he know how wrong he was.

In the middle of nowhere, with nothing else around for seemingly miles and miles, surrounded by a wire wall, with every move monitored by cameras, Maxfield is not your ordinary school. And that's before you even get to the lack of adults. No one there is any older than the students themselves -- not the teachers, administration, custodians . . . everything is run by the students. Students who have split into groups, or gangs, for survival.

In a school where breaking a rule could kill you, they seems necessary.

But what happens when Benson discovers the secret behind Maxfield?

The beginning of Variant was interesting for me as I went into it having almost no idea what to expect. Things were definitely very strange at the school, with the lack of adults and the measures taken to monitor students, their activities and their location.

As things got weirder, it was a bit harder for me to stick with the story, wondering why someone didn't just try a or b or c . . . but then Benson started to really wonder the same things more. (He'd always had a sense of trepidation about how things were running but once he began really pushing, it worked better.)

It actually works better that things stay rather complacent for a while in Variant. Through the different activities the students take part in at this strange Academy, we're able to meet more of the students and see how they interact with each other. At times it was a bit hard to keep the characters, beyond the main few, straight. Though, that could have been due to listening to the story (and not being able to jump back a sentence and check a name).

The characters were well done. They were in quite extraordinary circumstances and their personalities seemed to reflect that. Yet, they also reflected it differently. It was great that so many of them had been in the same setting, but had reacted differently -- we weren't given characters who were all clones of each other.

From the very beginning, or the almost very beginning, Wells teases that there's going to be a big twist or a big reveal of some sort. Something that explains the school and how and or why it operates the way it does. Wow is there.

It definitely wasn't the one I was expecting, even as it was happening, but it worked so well. It also upped the tension for the rest of the book. All the way through to the end there were things to figure out and wonder about. And end which set up Feedback Book 2 fantastically!

I'll be reviewing Feedback next week. I was going to do a double review, but didn't want to spoil Variant with the Feedback review.

Rating: 9/10

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