Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Variant by Robison Wells

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. 
-October 4th 2011 by HarperTeen
  Food to eat while reading: Hidden Ham and Cheese
Hidden Ham and Cheese Roll
Variant by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells is a new take on the questions reminiscent of Lord of the Flies by William Golding: what does man (or in this case teen) do when left to his own? The novel has breakneck twists and turns that deepen the plot and make it impossible to put down. 

Author Robison Wells in a resident of Holladay, Utah.  He recently finished graduate school and says that he wrote Variant when he should have been studying finance.  Wells is the author of three LDS fiction novels and Variant is his debut to the national market.

What to expect:

It is hard for me to talk about Variant without giving away spoilers.  As I read it, I anticipated a twist that other reviewers mentioned changed the book for good or bad.  I have to say that I love the direction Wells took the book.

Though I did get a bit confused at first by the large cast of characters in Variant, the main character Benson felt real and I sympathized with him.  I truly felt trapped in the school with him and had no idea how he could escape.

Unlike many novels that fall into the young adult dystopian genre, Variant has very little swearing and violence and no sex.  Wells does a fabulous job maintaining the crisp suspense and emotional depth typical of dystopia while keeping it clean. Parents can feel comfortable recommending it to teens who will be so involved in the story that they won’t miss the edginess.

The plot of Variant worked well for me and I enjoyed watching the story unfold, but the last few pages are what sealed the deal for me.  Wells answered my questions neatly and then threw me for a loop that has me begging for the sequel. 

I am anxious to see what happens to the teens in when they are forced to live in their own society.  The complete lack of adults in Variant and the man vs society struggle reminds me of other dystopian-type novels such as Gone by Michael Grant and Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Wells is busy working on a second and final book in the series, tentatively titled Feedback.  

What did you think of the twists in the book--throw you for a loop or reel you in?


  1. Overall, I didn't love this book and it wasn't only because of the out-of-the-blue twist. As for the twist, it does completely change things. I think I would have liked it better had I been subtly led to it, you know? But, as it's written, it just comes out of nowhere, so I had to really regroup to keep up with the story. Does that make any sense?


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