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.
Wow. I'd forgotten how good it feels to be completely in the grip of a novel, desperately turning pages to find out what happens next. Variant is super compelling, pretty creepy, and fairly creative.
I love stories of school/prisons and of kids surviving without adults with what-is-going-on!? plots. Benson is in the same position as us, creeped out by the weirdness but with no idea WHY. And that is the biggest draw Variant offers. Understandably, it is when we begin to get answers that the plot takes a turn for the worse. In a novel like this, the reader's brain fires off idea after idea, trying to figure out what is going on. And sometimes the actual reveal is a bit of a letdown after your own creativity.
Highlight for spoilers. For instance, I LOVED Jane's reveal as an android. I totally wasn't expecting it, and it upped the level of weird. And I liked the end reveal that the school was made to test the androids (I assume testing them to make them more human?), not to test the humans. However. If that is the case, why all the rules and weirdness and killing? Couldn't it be a regular school with real teachers? The androids could join in, "move away" if malfunctioning, or simply graduate out. There's no need for the prison setting. There are so many other believable ways to test androids than to kidnap a bunch of kids.
My love for the surprises was about gone when I got to the last chapter. And wouldn't you know, Wells pulled one over on me AGAIN and now I am newly intrigued and desperate for the sequel that won't come out until fall of 2012.
Four out of five security cameras.
Release Date: October 2011
Reading Level: Ages 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL WEL