Variant by Robison Wells was published by Harper Teen (US) on 4th October and the book is 356 pages long. Thanks to a friend for providing me with a copy for review.
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.
What I thought
Before being sent this book, I hadn't even heard of it. Once I read what it was about though, I couldn't wait to read it... even though it was set in a school.
Having this story told by Benson, the main character, was extremely refreshing. There aren't too many YA books that I can think of that are told from a male perspective and I loved the change. Many people who read my reviews know how much I hate a whiney female MC so to begin with, I was glad to know I wasn't going to get that with this book. Benson has had a pretty rough life, being in and out of foster care so he thought this scholarship was going to be his perfect getaway. He couldn't have been more wrong.
What I loved about Benson was that he was unlike any of the other students at school. They are all already set into their different groups and even though Benson knows he has to join one of them, he isn't happy about it and isn't afraid to let that be known. He is a very vocal character who fights for what he believes in and this shows his strength and determination well. Right from the beginning, I was routing for Benson and I desperately wanted to see him succeed. Not only is Benson strong but he appears to be quite fearless at the same time. No matter what was happening, he still had his goals in place and was determined to make them happen, even if there was the treat of death... more than once!
This new school that Benson finds himself now trapped in has a very specific way of life. There are strict rules enforced with insane punishments if you happen to disobey them. As I said earlier, the school's students have also set up groups: Society, Variant and Havoc. The Society people enforce every single rule and never do anything wrong – they believe following the rules is for the best. Havoc is the gang that can 'beat the crap out of anyone' and Variants are everyone else. The ones that don't want to play the game. I loved the way that the school was sectioned up and each group's reason for being the way that they were. The Variant and Society gangs are shown more than Havoc which was understandable, considering how the story goes, but I would have liked for it to be more well rounded.
This book is described as dystopian but I don't really agree with this label. I can see why it is I guess but the book is set in near enough modern day but it is really the twist that warrants the label. I obviously wont say what the twist is but it is MASSIVE! I wasn't expecting this at all and it seemed like it came out of no where all of a sudden. The way that the twist is written into the story was fantastic and no one will ever be able to see it coming I don't think. From here, the story really gets exciting, even though it was beforehand anyway. The action really starts here and a lot about the school is revealed. There is also a pretty big cliff-hanger which made me desperately want the next book straight away.
I was not expecting the genius that is Variant at all and I wish I had read it sooner. Well's writing is fresh, invigorating and damn exciting!