I wasn't completely sure about what I'd think of Variant, I don't know exactly why. I was expecting some average-ish while still a good read. But anything I ever thought about the book before I read it has disappeared, and replaced with something totally different. Because Variant was amazing. One of the best dystopian-but-not-really-dystopian books I've read. And frankly, it scared the hell outta me with all it's twisty bits and threats and the whole, "NO ONE LEAVES" thing.
Benson Fisher arrives at Maxfield Academy with only hopes of ending his life as a foster-child, and starting that of a 'normal' one. But when Benson finds out that there are no adults to be found at the Academy, only students who run the school and somehow teach themselves, he doesn't know what to think, and soon realizes that the people with real power over Maxfield Academy aren't keeping these kids for an education exactly...and no one ever leaves.
I have said time and time again how I LOVE scary books and just the synopsis of Variant gives me chills. I started reading it during lunch in my school library and then the librarian came over to ask about what I was reading and I just stared at him for like, a minute, because my mind was totally freaked out and my eyes were huge and it was like I didn't know how to talk because even though I knew what was going on, I couldn't explain the story because it sounded flat coming from my mouth. Do you guys know what I mean? You have to read it yourself and you will just KNOW.
Male protags for the win! In a genre where female protagonists are the dominators, reading from a male POV is so very refreshing. While I may be known to read (and love) lots of books with gushy, girly-girly protags talking about nail varnish and dresses, I thank Wells for not going down that route but giving us Benson instead, who's voice was so real and so not girly in any way. I loved how he questioned anything and everything. I would. Especially after seeing the behaviour of the others kids at Maxfield Academy. And he did it without caring about the rules! Rebel, much, Fisher?!
My favourite part was the mysteriousness of it all, though. You know that feeling when you're kept in the dark throughout a story and then you find out one thing, and then another and another and it all clicks into place and you get so excited about everything? YEAH! Reading Variant was mostly like that. Why mostly, you ask? Because what actually happens is that you *THINK* you've already figured it out and know exactly what's going on, but in actual fact you *DON'T* and then when the big secret is finally revealed you're like: "OMG WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT"
The twist is mind-blowing. I'm still not convinced I understand all of what happened exactly, but I'm a little bit to scared to ask somebody. The tagline for the novel, "Trust no one," is perfect and extremely accurate. Thinking back to the ending, especially. *shudders*
Also the love interest/romance with Jane freaked me out. I think nearly as much as it did Benson. O.O
Robison Wells has created a something so twisted and dark, a world where it's easy to get lost and hard to get out. Variant is so addictive, with intense, enthralling writing that draws you in and leaves you curious to know just what the school is hiding. Every word leaves you wanting more and the novel as a whole delivers the whole package. I say the whole package, but really, there is something missing. The answers to the MEGA-HUGE-GINORMOUS cliffhanger. SEQUEL, PLEASE, MR WELLS!
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.
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!