Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Variant by Robison Wells

I can't believe it's taken me so long to post this review.  For me, this was the silent surprise novel of the year.  We read Variant for a district book club I've been in this year, and it took me awhile to get through it.  All I can say is, why did it take me so long?  I didn't have expectations at all, but really found that I loved this book.  I've since handed it off to my "reluctant reader" students and had 100% of them come back loving it.  Without a grade, book report, or anything forcing them to read it, they just came back enthralled and wanted to read more.  That has to be the best thing a book can do for a reader--make them want to read more!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "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."

Review:  Let me just cut to the chase and say that I really enjoyed Variant.  I didn't expect to like it, but I did, and that's awesome!  Why did I like it?  It was unpredictable, shocking, and engaging.  Benson isn't the character you cheer on no matter what, but you do kind of feel like you're putting yourself in his spot and wondering how you would react.  This school is just crazy.  What in the world do you do in a school where it's run by the kids?  Yikes!

I didn't find anything juvenile about this novel.  In fact, there is some violence and serious emotional twists that made me feel like these kids needed an adult or two around to help them through everything.  The real clincher is that there are some pretty surprising twists in the novel that you don't see coming.  I think I literally said, "What the heck?" and then smiled.  I like to be surprised sometimes, when I can see that the author led us there and managed to keep me from guessing everything.  This is a dystopian-style novel with some seriously crazy twists.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and am happy to recommend it to other readers who need something new to read.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review is based on a personal copy of the novel.


  1. This sounds good. I think if I saw it not knowing anything about it, I would worry that it was some sort of copycat to the Divergent series.

    1. I know. You really would! Honestly, this was a real eye-opener for me. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Replies
    1. Yay! Me too. I love how excited my students get about it.

  3. Wow, this sounds really good. And the thing with the non-readers is quite an endorsement.

    1. Absolutely. The students LOVE it and I can get just about any kid to read it and then fall in love with reading again. It's kind of a surprising twist on a story, so it feels new to kids. I loved it.