I like boarding school books. There has always been something about them that interests me. Kids being away from their homes and parents creating little microcosms of society. I think they provide a perfect setting to showcase the best and worst about us. I was drawn to Robison Wells’s Variant for this very reason.
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.
-Summary provided by publisher-
The creepy factor of Maxfield Academy hits you in the face straight away. There is this hair-raising feeling about it that never goes away; there is something really wrong with this school. Really wrong, and Benson is thrown in with no protection. He only has his wits, and luckily enough for him he’s a pretty smart kid. Variant is written in first person, so you aren’t privy to anything that Benson doesn’t experience, and it’s such an unsettling feeling. This book written in any other perspective wouldn’t have worked. The uncertainty of everything makes it such a thrilling read.
Benson is a great character. You really feel for this kid. He just wanted a better life for himself, he did what he thought was best, and now he is literally fighting for his life. You feel his outrage at the injustice of the situation, the frustration he feels with the other students, and the desperation for freedom. Adding him to the delicate balance that was being maintained at Maxfield Academy, by a very interesting cast of characters—the tag line on the cover is so true, was just enough to shatter it. The plot’s tension builds and builds, winding tighter and tighter. When it finally comes to a head, you’ll be blown away at what’s going on. It’s really messed up. Gloriously so.
Admission: One of my personal pet peeves is cliffhangers. I get that there is a need to have an element of mystery and/or suspense leading into the next book, but ending a book on half a scene just irks me. Variant is the first in a series, and it most certainly has a cliffhanger. I had to leave the writing of this review for a few days after finishing so I could simmer down a bit. The ending really was an “OH, *MAJOR EXPLETIVE*!” one. Now that I’m over my initial frustration (by the way, it was a very good ending and something I didn’t even remotely see coming) I can say that I enjoyed Variant. I quickly became invested in Benson and his situation, and by the end all I wanted was for him to just be safe. I just really, really need the second book. Badly.
Variant hits bookstores October 4th.