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.
I usually figure out the plot of books way before the end, but that was not the case with Variant. It literally kept me guessing to the last word.
If you like suspenseful books, I hope Variant find its way to your reading list. Saying it's suspenseful is a major understatement. I stayed up until 2 am to finish this book because I had to know what was coming. After a particularly gruesome scene, I found myself reading to know what the outcome would be. I told myself "just one more chapter" to see. But what I found made me stop and ask myself "what just happened?" So of course I had to keep reading. And that's just what I did until I finished the book.
I loved discovering what was going on at Maxfield Academy right along with Benson. He had his suspicions and I had mine. We both found surprises-- lots of them.
Benson is a great narrator. He has major flaws, which makes him very likable. I imagine if I was in his situation, I might feel a lot of the same emotions. His voice came through loud and clear without sounding forced or fake. The other characters were also great in their supporting roles. Robinson Wells did a phenomenal job of layering everyone with such mystery that it was hard to assign a label. I was constantly guessing, right along with Benson.
I can promise you, when you think you have this book figured out, get ready. There will be some insane twist that will throw you off and make you question what you just read. Fantastic. Because I enjoyed this book, I went ahead and reserved book 2 from the library because I have to know what is coming next!
This book’s storyline was good. The suspense and mystery were well played, though it sometimes felt like Benson was waiting for the answers to fall into his lap instead of actively searching for them. There were twists that I liked, though they fit very snugly into a pre-existing mold. But altogether, Variant was a very good story.
Benson’s narration, too, was well done. His thoughts were logical and flowed nicely, thanks to Wells’ neat, effective prose. I definitely appreciated the male point of view and the clarity in Variant’s narration. As a result this was an easy book to like and to follow along with.
I was honestly quite worried by the many, many similarities between Variant and Roth’s Divergent, especially since both books were released only a few months apart. Bad planning, on the publishers’ part, to have two eerily alike YA dystopian debuts coming out on the market around the same time.
I, personally, liked Variant best of the two, though I think I would have liked it more if as I was reading I didn’t feel like I was re-reading Divergent, plot-wise. Very, very close storylines between these two books.
Curiously enough, even the titles come from the same place—Tris is a member of the “Divergent” group, Benson joins the “Variant” gang.
I wonder if Robison Wells and Veronica Roth have read each others’ books…
Verdict: I really really liked Variant. It was a fast-paced, suspenseful book with a likable lead character and good writing. I did feel, though, that something was missing, though I’m not quite sure what. And definitely, the Divergent vibes I got from Variant kept me from wholly loving it.
So first of all, I just want to say that I’m really not sure how people think Variant is a dystopian. Sure, the setting is apart from regular society, but that doesn’t make it a dystopian. Moving on now.
Variant is a thrill ride from the beginning. We’re talking “buildup? What buildup?” kind of thrill ride, and it’s oh so good. I’m fine and dandy with buildup, sure, but it’s quite the treat when I can be thrown right into the midst of things and not be terribly confused. Some books like to try to start out with a BANG by going for the shock factor or throwing the reader into the middle of a fight, but Variant just starts building a subtle creep factor right out of the gate and it totally works. I was completely hooked by page 7.
I can’t really say Benson was someone I could connect with, but I admired his perseverance. If I were plopped into Maxfield Academy I probably would’ve been lulled into a state of complacency by the simple fact that they have good food (what can I say, I’m a food girl). Plus, you know, I tend to play by the rules so the threat of death would’ve had me dressing in my uniform and sitting in my seat like a good little girl along with the rest of the students. And, even though Benson was all “fight the power!” he never wanted anyone else to get hurt. The only reason he tried to persuade anyone else was to save them from impending death (I totally wrote ‘doom’ right there, but it sounded too dramatic :P).
The Nutshell: Variant is a non-stop thriller that will have you hanging on the edge of your seat (or couch, or bed, etc) frantically flipping pages to find out the answers. The tension was often so high that I had to force myself to keep my eyes from jumping ahead to find out what happened. If you’re looking for a book that’ll keep you guessing until the very end (and after) then Variant is your book. Be warned, though, it ends in one heck of a cliffhanger and the sequel doesn’t come out until October ;]
There is something about schools that makes them perfect settings for dystopias, maybe the fact that, with boarding schools, you have very few rights. Or, maybe it's the fact that there are so many children; nothing is more terrifying than a creepy child. You expect adults to be jerks, but you hate to such betrayal and evil from younger individuals, perhaps because it hints at the evil in human nature.
Benson, despite his stupid name and the fact that he is a bit of a jerk, is a good main character. He thinks about himself first, something the others constantly rag on him for, but, really, who wouldn't be focusing on getting themselves out of such a weird place? My one criticism for him is that he does some stupid things in trying to escape, but, hey, I knew from the beginning that he was smart, but not insanely so.
Variant definitely is not the most pertinent dystopia for our lives, but it is a thrill ride from the first chapter. If you like action, mystery and twists, you will not want to miss this. I know I won't miss book two!
By Robison Wells
Benson Fisher thought that going to Maxfield Academy would be a good thing, he would be able to leave his old foster care family life and start fresh. But the second he gets there things start getting a little freaky. To get into Maxfield, you have to go through a chain link fence and a twelve foot high wall, then meet a girl named Becky, who will do his orientation. He goes in and meets Becky, who seems really nice, but when Benson tries to ask about the wall and fence, she won't give him any straight answers. She starts to talk about points and groups. About how there are three different groups and he'll have to join one, even though there are no rules about it and nothing to say they are official, but he HAS to. He is given a watch with a microchip that he has to wear at all times. Becky says that it is kind of like a key to the places he's aloud to go. Benson is really weirded out, and it gets worse when he makes his way to the dorms and sees cameras everywhere.
What is this place? That's what Ben is wondering. There is one thing that Benson wants now, and that is to get out. Can he?
An action packed book that has twists and turns that would blow your mind. It will keep you up all night reading, guaranteed.