Variant

I feel like I start about 1/3 of my reviews by saying that I first heard about the book on the Writing Excuses podcast, and this one is no exception to that.  Robison Wells is the brother of Dan Wells who is one of the podcasters on WE and also wrote the John Cleaver series of books (of which there is a review for the 3rd book – I Don’t Want to Kill You – on my blog, I read the first two before I started the blog so they don’t have full reviews).  So after hearing about the book, I picked it up, and after starting it early this morning, I finished it this afternoon and really enjoyed it.

Book Stats

373 pages

Science Fiction

First novel in a trilogy

Characters

The main character of the book is Benson Fisher, a 17 year old foster child who has been shuffled from family to family his entire life.  He was a well written character, and I thought that the book did a fairly good job of showing that he didn’t really fit in with other people too well.  He was constantly making references to movies, books, and tv shows because he spent more time dealing with them than with people.  After he is thrown into a very strange situation, he immediately starts to question what is going on and does everything that he can to figure out why it’s happening.  The rest of the characters in the novel also had pasts similar to Benson, essentially they were all loners that no one in society would really miss (or even notice) if they disappeared.

Setting

The book is set in the Maxfield Academy in New Mexico.  It’s an unusual school because there are no adults.  The students are in charge of everything, including teaching and discipline and there is a reward system in place as long as those jobs are performed properly.

Plot

Tired of being bounced from family to family, Benson decides to apply for admission to the Maxfield Academy.  As soon as he arrives at the school, he starts to see some very strange behavior in the other students which leads him to question what is going on.  The oddities of the school keep rapidly piling on top of each other and he immediately makes plans to try and escape.  Most of the other kids in the school seem to have given up on the idea of escaping, and several of them are convinced that they’re in a good situation, especially compared to where they came from.

Enjoyment

This book is a fast read that does a lot of things very well.  It creates an interesting setting and the characters reacted believably based upon the situations that they’re in.  The students in the school all break apart into one of three groups which serve as the structure for their lives.  The science fiction aspect of the book doesn’t really kick in until about 2/3 of the way through the novel, but it was an interesting twist and even though I didn’t see it coming, looking back on the setup for it it makes perfect sense.  My biggest complaint about the book is that it ends on a really big cliffhanger, which just means that I’ll be picking up the next book pretty much the day it comes out.

Overall Grade

A well written YA novel with interesting characters and an interesting premise, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

9/10

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