373 pages, YA Dystopian
My rating: 4 stars
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.
My 2 cents
Just a little extra info: this book is written by Robison Wells, who is the brother of Dan Wells. If you didn't already know, I'm obsessed with Dan Wells (his books, anyways) so its not surprising I loved this book! I didn't learn about this fact until the end, by the way!
Variant starts out with a normal, 17 year foster boy by the name of Benson. He has been admitted into some kind of scholarship program, and is on his way to this private school in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere. A social worker drops him off at the door, he walks in, and then learns that this isn't really a school--its some kind of prison. Its filled with only kids, who run the "school." There are security cameras and microphones everywhere, and only 4 rules:
1. No sex
2. No trying to escape
3. No refusing punishment
4. No violent fights
If you break these rules, you are sent to detention. No one knows what happens if you get sent to detention, but you never come back.
Its a pretty creepy setting, and I was hooked by the second chapter. Nothing seems to make much sense at Maxfield Academy. The students have no idea why they are there, but they never leave. They all have no friends, no family, nobody that cares that they've basically disappeared off the face of the earth! The kids have formed themselves into three gangs. "The Society" which follows the rules to a T and deal with punishments and administration; "Havoc" which likes to solve things by fighting, and have control of security and the grounds; and "Variant", or "V." V are the kids who don't believe in the system and truly want to find a way to escape. They are in the minority. Most of the kids are scared to the point that they mostly cooperate.
The character development doesn't get too deep, but the characters still felt alive to me. There is a decent amount of action, but the story was more suspenseful than anything else. I could not figure the school out, and was totally shocked when we got the big twist at the end! This one was a great thrill ride, with one heck of a big cliffhanger!