Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Read This: Variant

by Robison Wells

The Short Story 
Benson has spent his whole life bouncing from one foster family to the next, until he wins a scholarship to Maxfield Academy. Maxfield is a prestigious, old boarding school. And kind of a prison. A crazy, crazy prison. Once Benson figures out Maxfield is not what he thought it was, he wants out. But escape might be a lot more complicated than anyone thought. Slow start but great finish. 4/5

Come for the...
little bit of everything. I wasn't crazy about Variant initially. I felt like it took various aspects of other books and mixed them all together; using the phrase The Society, having cameras everywhere, and an enclosure that was almost begging the people inside to try to escape. And I like those kinds of books. But the beginning of Variant was kind of uneventful and too familiar for me. Benson spends some time being annoyed. Some people are nice to him. Some people try to beat him up. The school is supposedly mysteriously evil, but doesn't do much mysterious or evil.

I got to a part where I thought "this is like West Side Story, with the Sharks & the Jets & the cops, and dancing!" when the book really picked up for me. And once things start up in Variant, they really go full speed. I raced through the last third of the book, and my general response was "What?" "What?" and "What?" some more. I had no idea what was going on, and even when I thought I did, I was still mostly wrong. I think. I love a book that keeps me guessing, and the last third of Variant definitely did that. If you find that the beginning of the book isn't working for you, I think the end will make up for it.

Stay for the
classes, the crazy names, the sequel (that you will want very badly)

Don't think about this too hard
  • Other than getting beat up a few times, Benson doesn't ever really get into trouble. And I never felt like he was in much danger of getting in trouble, either. I'm not sure why, but I didn't feel like the school was as menacing as I was supposed to.
  • The first paint ball game was interesting, but I thought it came up too frequently. Maybe it will be important later?

The Big Three
Language: a couple of mild profanities
Sex and Stuff: not an issue
Violence: a lot of fighting (with and without weapons); some of it was very violent and a little disturbing

Just So You Know
I read a free e-galley from HarperTeen via NetGalley. Variant is now available.


  1. K, well if I find the beginning is slow I'll stick with it. I'm hearing good things so the ending must be quite redeeming.

  2. I don't know why, but I have trouble connecting to male protagonists in YA. But I think I want to read this book anyway--it sounds like it'll be pretty fast-paced and exciting. Awesome review--I love the part about West Side Story :)

  3. Jenny, it was a good ending. Crazy and a little confusing, but I liked it. I think I'm the only one who thought it started slowly, but it just took me awhile to get into it.

    Juju, thanks. Hpoe you like it.

    Karen, sometimes I do, too. Especially if their interests are things I have no interest in (some sports, fighting, etc.) I think I'm the only person who would get a West Side Story vibe but that's what popped into my head. :)