Nov 032011


Author: Robison Wells

Publisher: HarperTeen

Published Date: October 2011

Hardcover; 356 pages

Genre: YA Dystopian

Reviewed by: Shanda, Sheila, and Mindy

FTC FYI: purchased with own money

Shanda’s Review

Variant begins with Benson, a 17-year-old foster kid who has moved from home to home since he was five, as he is dropped off at Maxfield Academy. Benson is excited, hoping that this is his opportunity for a quality education. It doesn’t take long for Benson to realize this school is not what he thought it was and he wants out.

I have heard people mention both Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game in reference to Variant. I haven’t read either of them, so this review will be free from any comparisons to those books. My experience with what is considered YA Dystopian is limited to The Hunger Games (which I loved) and The Maze Runner (not as much), as well as Matched and Possession, so I will also not be comparing Variant to other YA Dystopian-type novels as a genre.

What I will tell you in this review is how I felt about this long-awaited novel by Robison Wells as a 30-something mother who is looking for entertaining and clean books for both herself and her teenager to read.

I would hand Variant to my (nearly) 14 year-old daughter without hesitation. If my nephew was a little older, he would get a copy for Christmas this year. Maybe I’ll buy one for him now anyway and give it to him in a couple of years.

I started to read Variant and didn’t put it down, even for dinner. I found the writing smooth and engaging. Both the characters and the story were intriguing to me. I appreciated the lack of swearing, both traditional and “made-up.” (There was one instance of “b—-rd” after a character is killed, but that is all that I can remember.) There is violence but it never felt excessive or pointless to me. There is no sex or gratuitous content.

There is desire. Desire for freedom, something Benson never really appreciated before. For friends and acceptance, things he didn’t know he would like having so much. For normalcy, which takes on an entirely different meaning halfway through the book.

Thinking back, there is nothing that I “tripped” over or that pulled me from the story. I had no problem suspending a little belief about foster kids disappearing from the system with no one noticing. Stories like that have been in the news several times in the past few years. I hear about a number of run-aways each year as well.

I really liked Benson and the other Vs, especially Jane, Mason, Curtis and Lily. The other key characters were easy to like or despise depending on your position.

There is a scene with Benson, Jane, Dylan and Laura that is seriously intense. I’m pretty sure I read it with my mouth open in shock. What followed was a twist I did not see coming.

I found the ending to be an effective cliff-hanger that definitely made me want more but did not leave me overly-frustrated at having to wait for the sequel.

I give Variant 5 stars out of 5 for going above and beyond what I expected, which honestly was a lot.

Young adult fiction is the genre I am the most picky about after being disappointed in content and quality several times. I don’t read much YA so I am thrilled to have enjoyed Variant as much as I did. I recommend Variant to teenagers (boys AND girls) as well as adults.

Sheila’s Review

Benson Fisher is looking for a brand new start at a brand new school. He is not prepared for what awaits him when he gets there. Strange happenings are occurring at Maxfield Academy where the students are running the school, with no adults in sight.

From the very beginning you realize that Variant is not going to be like other books out there. I found I was drawn in from the minute he pulls up to the front doors of the school. Students standing at the windows are screaming at him, making this a very strange welcome to a new school. Oh yes, later Benson finds out it had been a warning for him to run while he had the chance.

From this point on it is such a wild ride. Every day, Benson finds more and more weird things about the school. He also plans every day how he is going to escape. The people that he thinks he can trust, he finds their friendship is all a facade.

Variant leaves you guessing through the whole book. I can guarantee that you will not guess about nor believe some of the things that are revealed. The end IS as shocking as everyone has been saying.

This book is such a great mix of a dystopian theme and a surprising dash of sci-fi. The writing is clean and the characters are distinct. I can’t wait to find out where the story will go from here. It all reminds me of mice in a cage running through tubes, they never realize that they are not getting anywhere. Is this what Benson is going to find out? If you are curious as to what I mean…well, you are just going to have to read the book.

It is a five star, totally fantastic YA book that I will read again and again.

Mindy’s Review

I need to say this first—Variant blew me away. I loved every page. I started on a Saturday afternoon and finished that night.

Variant starts off very strong and doesn’t let go until the last sentence. Even then I was left with my mouth open. This book is so well-written. The characters, whether good or bad, were amazing. The surprise twist had me screaming and saying, “No way this is happening!” My husband was teasing me while I read because I had my hand to my mouth and gasped many times.

Benson Fisher is headed to Maxfield Academy. He wanted this school to be the ticket out of his disappointing life. He couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as he arrives at school, he knows something is wrong. Immediately when the gates open, two kids try to run to freedom.

Benson doesn’t know what to think when he meets Becky who explains how things works at the school. No teachers. Students attend classes on weird subjects and earn points. Benson finds out from Isaiah that he is “expected” to join a gang—The Society, Havocs, or the V’s. Each gang is in charge of certain jobs at the school. Benson chooses the Variants. He tries to escape, making quick enemies of Dylan and Laura from the Society. He eventually makes friends in his gang, but escape is always in his mind.

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to stop there. So many amazingly cool things happen, your jaw will be dropping, too. It is violent in spots, so younger readers beware.

5 out of 5 stars. Absolutely superb. Smooth writing and non-stop action.


 Have you added Variant to your to-read list yet?


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  9 Responses to “Variant by Robison Wells – Combined Review”

  1. Oh, squee! I totally agree with the five star rating. I loved this book. For all the reasons you mentioned.

    FYI–I found the issue of a 17-year-old falling off the map, so to speak, completely believable. One of my sons spent 15 months in an adolescent treatment center that included us having to become foster parents during his stay. We found out when one of the boys who stayed at our home (he was 17) ran away that in Utah a 17-year-old can run away from home and the police cannot force them to return. As for the younger foster children in the story, I don’t know. The law may be different from state to state.

  2. I loved Variant. Great book!

  3. Great reviews! I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much, but I agree with a lot of your points. It was different, and I loved how it explored human nature, and kept me guessing right until the end.

    Donna: I completely agree with you! I found that hard to believe as well. I worked at an adolescent treatment center, and I know for a fact that it would be almost impossible for Benson (or any other foster child) to have told his foster parents that he was going to that school…and then just disappeared. Case workers call all the time to check up on them. Someone would have been worried after so many foster kids disappeared or “ran away” after going to that school.

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  5. I loved Variant. Great reviews! I enjoyed my visit.

  6. […] Wells, Varient (LDSWBR). Shanda: “I started to read Variant and didn’t put it down, even for dinner. I found the […]

  7. I LOVED Variant I NEED to know when the next book comes out!
    Variant is a great PA Survival book for kids over 12 (a little younger if their reading skills are good and can understand the book) it’s very hard to put down you will be guessing throughout the whole book but unless your a “surprise expert” (best words I could think of) nothing will prepare you for the end, the cliff-hanger will leave you needing the next book and angry at the author (only for a little while!). ******

  8. I am 12 years old and I loved Variant. I found it in a local book store, sitting on the shelf and the term “Trust no one” caught my eye. I insantly fell in love and read on the drive home, even though I get car sick.

  9. It was absolutly amazing, i loved how they described new paintball tactics and i plan on using them next time i go. I have scowered the internet for the next book but cant seem to find it :S

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