Variant by Robinson Wells
Review by Janine
I know that his book has been out for a while but it was one of those books that I always say I am going to get to but for whatever reason, I don't. So as I decided to dive into it for a nice, creepy Halloween read I was surprised that it turned into on of those "can't put down" books!!
This is the story of Benson Fisher, a high school student who has been in more foster care homes than he would like to remember. He is looking for a way out of his current home and finds an add online for Maxfield Academy. Thinking that this is way out, he applies and is excepted. From the moment that he arrives, he knows that something is not right. There are no adults in the school, it is run by the students. Students teach, take care of security, maintenance and even the cafeteria The students have organized themselves into three gangs, Havoc, Society and Variant. Gang members stick together, doing the same jobs, watching out for one another and teaming up together to play the numerous games of paintball that they are required to play. The only adult that the students ever see is the mysterious "Iceman" who delivers the punishments of the students through the computer screen. Punishments can range from being locked out of school, loss of meals or the dreaded "detention" which at Maxfield Academy, equals death. Benson, from the moment he arrives is not pleased with what is going on and is constantly planning his escape, which he has learned has never happened and if caught is punishable with detention. As Benson continues to plot his escape, he begins to learn the secrets of the school and escape becomes more than just a hope...it becomes the only hope of survival.
This book really had me intrigued from the beginning. To start, Benson is from Pittsburgh (which completely helps since I happen to live in a suburb of that city!) which naturally peaks my interest. You really feel for him and the fact that he seems lost in his own life. A foster child who hasn't had the best foster homes and is just looking for an escape. As he is looking online he finds what he feels is his ticket out but as we all know will not be that. Maxfield Academy is just creepy from the start, from the time he is welcomed by Becky, a fellow student and learns that the entire school is run by the kids or the time that he is forced to choose a "gang" because no one survives at Maxfield without being in a "gang". It is also insanely creepy that all the students there just accept that they are there and there is no way out. No one really thinks about escaping or trying to leave. Benson is definitely my kind of kid, he questions everything. Where the other students have just come to accept what they are told, Benson refuses and is constantly causing problems because no one, not the school, and certainly not "Iceman" enjoy him asking questions His main focus throughout the entire book is to escape and he is constantly plotting and snooping to find the best way to do that. While doing all of this he ends up falling for Jane, a sweet nice girl, who like Benson, wants to escape. Throughout all of the turmoil Benson is creating, the students manage to earn a dance from the "school". Jane is naturally Benson's date and as they walk outside, they are attacked by two other students. As Benson comes in and out of conscious what he sees, (which I won't tell you to avoid spoiling anything) stuns, shocks and pushes him to not only escape but to share what he knows with the other students in the hopes that they too will want to leave. All the pieces begin to connect and then, there is the ending, which is completely AWESOME! Really, I have to say it is one of the best cliffhangers I have read in a long time. I read the last two pages and my mouth dropped..... with that being said, I am no longer regretting my choice to wait to read this book, because the next one is already out!!!! Woooo Hoooo!!