Variant

( 122 )

Overview

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, where video cameras monitor his every move—and where breaking the rules equals death.

All Benson wants is to find a way out. But when he stumbles upon the real secret the school has been ...

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Overview

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, where video cameras monitor his every move—and where breaking the rules equals death.

All Benson wants is to find a way out. But when he stumbles upon the real secret the school has been hiding, he realizes that escape may be impossible.

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Editorial Reviews

Pittacus Lore
“An intense journey with some of the most shocking twists and turns I’ve ever read.”
James Dashner
“Variant is a compelling story on so many levels. I loved it! The twist behind it all is my favorite since Ender’s Game.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Fans seeking a fast-paced, action-heavy read will find this generates a lot of excitement."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Fans seeking a fast-paced, action-heavy read will find this generates a lot of excitement.”
Booklist
“Good old-fashioned paranoia taken to giddy extremes. Take Veronica Roth’s Divergent, strip out the angst, add a Michael Grant-level storytelling pace, and you have this very satisfying series starter.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Fans seeking a fast-paced, action-heavy read will find this generates a lot of excitement.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Fans seeking a fast-paced, action-heavy read will find this generates a lot of excitement.”
Booklist
"Good old-fashioned paranoia taken to giddy extremes. Take Veronica Roth’s Divergent, strip out the angst, add a Michael Grant-level storytelling pace, and you have this very satisfying series starter."
Pittacus Lore
"An intense journey with some of the most shocking twists and turns I’ve ever read."
James Dashner
"Variant is a compelling story on so many levels. I loved it! The twist behind it all is my favorite since Ender’s Game."
Publishers Weekly
In a chilling, masterful debut, Wells gives the classic YA boarding school setting a Maze Runner twist, creating an academy of imprisoned teenagers who must fight to survive when the rules change daily, and the punishment for breaking those rules is death. Seventeen-year-old Benson Fisher, tired of foster homes, applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy in New Mexico, hoping for a fresh start. Instead, he is trapped with roughly 70 other teens divided into three factions, with no teachers, no real classes, and no chance of escape at a school overseen by the mysterious and sinister "Iceman," who doles out punishments and awards points. Though Wells doesn't provide much detail about Benson's past, his honesty and determination to escape make him a compelling protagonist, and it's easy to get drawn into his fellow students' plights as well. There are plenty of "didn't see that coming" moments and no shortage of action or violence. With its clever premise, quick pace, and easy-to-champion characters, Wells's story is a fast, gripping read with a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“An exciting, edge-of-your-seat read that combines psychological themes from works like Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game in a truly unique way. Variant should join the ranks of today’s must-read science fiction and fantasy series. A highly recommended addition to any collection for teens.”
VOYA - Karen Jensen
Benson Foster will try anything to escape the foster care system, but when he enrolls in Maxfield Academy, he finds that he is escaping one type of hell only to be trapped in another, truly deadly, one. There are no adults at the academy; the students do everything from teaching to preparing meals and security. There are four main rules: no sex, no violent fighting, no refusing punishments, and no trying to escape. Students who break the rules are sent to detention, and they never come back. Benson is trying to find a way to escape, and along the way he finds some devastating secrets: some of the students are not who they seem to be. Variant is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat read that combines psychological themes from works like Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Ender's Game in a truly unique way. There are a couple of twists that are truly surprising and up the emotional ante of the story. From the moment Benson enters the academy until the very end, readers are caught in a tight, tense thriller. What is the academy and why are the students there? Wells does a good job of both universebuilding and character development, as the rules unfold and character roles become clearer. There is a slow unfolding of academy secrets that proves to be just the right pacing. In the end, Benson may escape the walls of the school but he stumbles upon an even bigger mystery. Variant should join the ranks of today's must-read science fiction and fantasy series . This is a highly recommended addition to any collection for teens. Reviewer: Karen Jensen
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Desperately seeking to escape from an abominable living situation, foster-kid Benson Fisher applies and is accepted to the elite Maxfield Academy, a boarding school in the remote wilderness of New Mexico. However, before he even sets foot on campus, he senses that something is awry. The school is surrounded by a massive brick wall and razor-wire fence and there are no teachers; video cameras monitor the students' every move; and serious infractions (attempting to escape, having sex, and violent fighting) are punishable by death. To avoid devolving into anarchy, students are divided into three gangs, and peace hangs by a tenuous thread. Unwilling to bend to the draconian will of his captors, Benson intently devises ways to escape. Adding a touch of lightness is the tender romance that he develops with a fellow student, Jane. When he stumbles upon an unimaginable secret about her that hints at the academy's true intentions, Benson knows that he must find a way out quickly, or die trying. The boy's desire to be a normal teenager, as well as his tenacious fight for survival, will resonate with readers. Variant ends with a nail-biting cliff-hanger that will have them clamoring for the next installment. In addition to being filled with heart-racing action and suspense, the novel raises thought-provoking questions about morality and social order. This is an impressive debut with wide appeal, especially for fans of Alexander Gordon Smith's Lockdown (Farrar, 2009) and James Dashner's Maze Runner (Delacorte, 2009)—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews

Wells introduces Benson Fisher, a teen in search of a "real" life instead of a long series of unwanted foster homes—but instead of the utopia he's searching for, he finds the direct opposite.

Benson thinks he's found the perfect school in Maxfield Academy, a private school in the wilds of New Mexico. Winning a scholarship with unexpected ease, he looks forward to establishing real friendships and getting a good education at last. What he finds, however, is far from normal.Within minutes of the front doors closing—and locking—behind him, he finds himself in a fight for his life. He joins a gang, the Variants, just to survive. With no adults on campus, classes are taught by fellow students, punishments are passed on by computer and nothing seems to follow a logical path. Benson decides it's time to make a run for it, until he finds out that no one makes it out of Maxfield...not alive, at any rate. Benson's account unfolds in a speedy, unadorned first person, doling information out to readers as he learns it himself.

Hard to put down from the very first page, this fast-paced novel with Stepford overtones answers only some of the questions it poses, holding some of the most tantalizing open for the next installment in a series that is anything but ordinary. (Thriller. 12 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062026095
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 44,187
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Robison Wells is the author of Blackout and the YA science-fiction thrillers Variant and Feedback. Variant was a Publishers Weekly Best Book and a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Robison lives in the Rocky Mountains in a house not too far from elk pastures. His wife, Erin, is a better person than he will ever be, and their three kids cause mischief and/or joy.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 122 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(72)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 122 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Courtesy of Readergirl Reviews a Teen Book

    When I first got this book, I had absolutely no expectations. I had read the blurb, of course, and the summary was so intriguing that I was definitely looking forward to reading the book. I did not expect to fall in love with it! I finished it all of two minutes ago and couldn't wait to write my review for it. I'm not sure what to praise first.

    This was one of those books that just grabs you from the very first sentence, takes you on an absolute roller-coaster ride of constant, relentless suspense, and doesn't let go, not even with the last sentence. I read this story in one sitting with very few breaks, because I truthfully didn't want to put off reading a single page. I had to know what happened next. There was very little "down time" in the book. It was constant...taking you from one breathtaking event to another.

    The characters were real, honest, sympathetic, and you just couldn't help but love them. Especially Benson. This is one smart guy, brave, but smart enough not to be stupidly brave when bravery won't work. So much of the time you see a good character make a really stupid decision trying to be brave. Not this guy. He knew when to back off and live to fight another day. He knew how to keep things to himself and make smart choices. You had to admire him. The other characters, even the bad ones, were so well drawn that I could imagine them so clearly. You also had to feel sympathy for the bad ones because it seemed they were misguided.

    When the "big reveal" comes about halfway through the book, where Benson finally discovers a small piece of what might be happening around him, I was utterly floored. I never in a million years expected it. And when the last big secret is revealed, I didn't expect that either. The author did an awesome job planting doubts in your head and yet still managing to surprise you.

    This story was brilliantly plotted, beautifully written and was so suspenseful that you can't soon forget it. It had me right up until the end, and even now I am still in suspense. There is obviously going to be a sequel and I can't believe I have to wait for however many months, or a year, to read what happens next.

    Read this story! I dare you not to love it!!

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2011

    A bit of Lost mixed with some Jason Bourne

    I've heard a lot of folks compare this book to the Hunger Games books. I would sooner compare it to the TV show Lost. While fans of the Hunger Games will certainly like this book, that is simply because this book is a great book. It's true that this book covers some similar topics, but Rob Wells manages to develop a much larger cast of characters (and does it well), has plot twists you didn't see coming, and doesn't let his characters take the easy way out.

    This book is much more like Lost- lots of characters you can actually care about, some mysteries that still aren't fully explained by the end of the first book, character deaths/disappearances that weren't expected... I also like the overall mood of the book. It starts off with a bit of a "what is going on here?" feeling with some happy times thrown in, then builds to a more general (and justified) paranoia, finally culminating in some great action and resolution. Then, just like a season of Lost, the last few pages make you think "What? What does that mean? When is the next one coming out?!"

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Action packed thriller

    The minute Ms. Vaughn drops Benson Fisher off at Maxfield Academy, he gets the feeling that something is a bit off. As soon as the front doors open, two students run out and into the woods. One of the boys warns him that no matter what anyone says, he can never leave. Things become even more unnerving when Benson learns there are no adults at the academy. Instead, the kids teach all of the classes and carry out the discipline as well as work jobs for which they earn points that allow them to buy things. Benson is told that everything will be just fine for him provided he follows four rules: No sex, no trying to escape, no refusing punishments and no violent fights. If you do any of those things you are sent to detention, and if you go to detention - you don't come back.

    As the weeks press on, Benson becomes more and more unnerved. Teens start disappearing, extreme punishments are carried out and whoever is watching them on the security cameras seems to be carrying out some sort of experiment, but what is it? Benson plans to escape, but he knows he can't do it alone. Who, if anyone, can he trust? If he doesn't get out soon, he may not live through the year.

    This book is packed full of action. Mr. Wells is excellent at creating tension, and his prose is effortless. The twists and turns this book took totally blew me away; I couldn't stop reading it. The ending took me by surprise. I need the next installment immediately. If you are a fan of thrillers and lots of action, this is definitely one you don't want to miss!

    (Review based on an Advanced Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Awesome

    Perfect read. Cant wait for the secong!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Ehh

    Its okay. If you were blown away by the Hunger Games then this book will be below par, but its fast and i liked the idea

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    AMAZING!

    This book was amazingggg. The ending wasent the best, but i still enjoyed the book! Recomended 4 13&up
    Becca:)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    :)

    This book gave me the same thrill i got while reading the Hunger Games without being another one of those new books by wannnabe authors trying to copy the same themes as the Hunger Games.

    One of my top 5 favorite books ever. I am dying waiting for Feedback to come out!!!!!!

    ********* warning:: extreme cliffhanger at the end :(

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

    A decent dystopian type book

    Variant - not agreeing or conforming; differing, especially from something of the same general kind. That definition is pretty much the theme of this book. This Dystopian type book deals with a group of kids locked into a school, like lab rats.

    Benson thought his life in the foster care system was bad until that day he came to Maxfield. When he finds out that the whole school is ran by teenagers, he instantly knows something is not right and wants to leave. As most of the kids have conformed to never going home there are a small group who call themselves Variants who want to escape. Benson joins this group by default and he refuses to be a part of the Society or Havoc.

    Most of the new kids stop trying to figure away out and just live their life trapped inside the school because they know what happens when you try to escape--detention. Those who go to detention never come back, and since nobody ever rescues them they also know that detention means--death. There are cameras everywhere and the Iceman is watching their every move, but it doesn't stop Benson from trying to escape. He never conforms to how things are and can't see how everyone can just play along.

    Benson is one tough character, he gets beat up on his first day at Maxfield, but never stops mouthing. He is always mentioning escaping and doesn't care how vocal he is and towards the end when he knows some of the secrets of Maxfield he drives a wedge between the other groups, but it only makes the place more unsafe. He is a smart mouth, sometimes a bit arrogant, but he sure can take a beating and keep on going. I liked him, but sometimes his rants were a bit repetitious.

    Maxfield the school in itself is a very well thought out place. The student's closets are elevators that deliver their clothing, etc. There are a lot of those little elevator type closets all over and you can't try to escape in one because they won't move with a person inside them. Those running Maxfield picks only children who will not really be missed as they are either homeless, orphaned, or in foster care. If something happens to one of the kids nobody knows they are missing (but the kids inside Maxfield).

    I enjoyed Variant and was a little surprised to find out why they were at Maxfield, but the story reminded me a little to much of The Maze Runner. (One guy who refuses to accept the way things are and decides to figure out how to escape). I also thought it was just a little bit to repetitious with the theme of the story which is pretty much, I have to escape, I can't stay here any longer, why don't you guys try to escape, etc. It seems like more often than not Benson is mentioning he he needs to escape and its like I know you want to escape so now do it. So for me it wasn't quite a 4 star read but almost. I gave it a 3.75 but you can't put that here so I had to go with three.

    I believe if you like Dystopian type stories that you might enjoy this book. But I warn you it has a cliffhanger ending!!!!!!!!!!!! I really hate when a book leaves you with this whole..uhhh huhhh what! type ending, it drives me crazy, but makes you really want to know what is going to happen next.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this book!

    I loved Variant so much! It's an awesome sci-fi/thriller YA, and fans of James Dashner and Michael Grant are going to love the first book in this new series. When I saw that James Dashner blurbed this book, I knew I had to read it, and I'm so glad I did. I started reading yesterday afternoon, and finished before going to sleep. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down until I got to the end.

    This book is one big sci-fi mystery waiting to be figured out. I kept trying to guess what was going on, but each time I thought I had it right, a new twist was thrown my way. And wow, the twist in the middle was just . wow. I don't want to give anything away, but I never saw it coming.

    The main character, Benson Fisher, was likable and fantastically written. He's strong willed, and had a tough life before coming to Maxfield Academy. He doesn't let people in easily, and it's great seeing his relationships with other characters progress throughout the novel.

    Then there was the ending. Oh my gosh, major cliffhanger! I wish the next book was out now so I could start reading it already, because I need to know what happens next!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2013

    I read this, and its sequel, because they were compared to the M

    I read this, and its sequel, because they were compared to the Maze Runner series, but I was sorely disappointed. 

    The plot seemed like a mishmash of various other popular series, without the substance.  Characters were not developed, nor were back stories or important points.  I guessed the plot twists very early on. Overall, not worth the time or money.

    Stick with the MazeRunner series, for sure! 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    Random

    A really suprising suspensful and amazing book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2012

    Action-Packed and Suspenseful

    I had finished reading The Hunger Games Trilogy by Susanne Collins and The Maze Runner series by James Dashner. I was looking for my next great read when I stumbled upon this little gem. I was not dissappointed. I quickly devoured the entire book and anxiously waited for it's sequel, Feedback, to come out. I have now read that one too, and it is awesome. Robison Wells is a talented author. He weaves suspense and mystery together with action, and I was constantly finding myself in the shoes of Benson. Truly a great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Dont waste your time.

    I had good expectations for this book, BUT....it was horrible overall.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    I loved this book! :)

    This was the first book i got on my nook and i absolutley loved it! I would recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Really?

    Amazing book with a climax that leaves u on the edge of your seat, but has an ending that completely ruins the book.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved It!!

    Wow! This book was great! After about three pages, I knew I was strapped into the seat of a rollercoaster and there was no getting out until the last page was turned. I like to pride myself that (due to reading ALOT of books) I can usually figure out what's coming or where we're going pretty early on. Well, with Variant, I was thrown for a loop every time. It zigged when I thought it would zag down to the last page.

    I love that Variant didn't spend three chapters trying to convince us that Maxfield Academy is anything that it wasn't. Benson knew from the gate that he was in trouble. Now, it was just a matter of figuring out why this place was spooky and how he was going to get the heck out of there!

    My only criticism of Variant would be the MASSIVE cliffahanger at the end. This book ended up really being more like Act One of the series (which is fine if you're at a Broadway show and all will be resolved in and hour and a half, but a bummer when you have to wait for a year between books!)

    Ultimately, I really liked Varient all the same and, I promise, I'll be first in line for the sequel!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2011

    Great Read!

    I thought this book was great. I couldn't put it down, and when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it, trying to figure out what could be happening. I really didn't see the big twist coming and the ending left me wishing that Mr. Wells could publish his next book right now!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Thrill-ride of an adventure!

    WOW. Fresh, exciting, and completely unique, Variant is truly the type of book that will hook you on page one and then throw surprise after surprise at you. There was so much intrigue in this book and it definitely kept me guessing from chapter to chapter, which I LOVE in a book.

    When Benson Fisher arrives at his new school, he's looking for a new start--new opportunities, new friends, a new LIFE. What he gets is a school without adults run by gangs of students locked in an eternal power-struggle. Not exactly what he had in mind when he applied for the scholarship! Benson is determined to escape the confines of the school, something no one has successfully done before. What he discovers along the way--well, let's just say it's although unexpected and a bit terrifying.

    Benson is a likeable character from the get-go. He's got this fresh, positive attitude as he looks forward to starting school at Maxfield Academy that is almost instantly destroyed by what he discovers there. However, his determination to escape is never destroyed by the pressure of others and even after finding a girlfriend, he is focused on escaping. I enjoyed his exploits throughout and his near constant planning for his eventual escape. Each day and new experience seems to bring new insights into his escape plan.

    The plot of this book is seriously awesome. I loved the twists and turns that Robison Wells wove into the story. You couldn't ever really guess what was going to happen next. It had the perfect combination of mystery, action, and adventure that all leads to a mind-blowing ending. Seriously, this ending will SHOCK you. (And I'm going to warn you, it's quite the cliffhanger.)

    Really, all I can say is that this is definitely a book to check out! It's a fabulous read for fans of YA action/adventure fans with a certain atmosphere that will appeal to YA dystopia fans as well. Everything comes together smoothly to make this a quick-paced read that will appeal to even your most reluctant readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    Great read - the ending will blow your mind!

    This was a very entertaining book- I couldn't put it down! Highly recommended - I can't wait for the sequel. Creepy and yet lots of fun!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!

    Variant is one of those books that keeps you on your toes. I mean, the plot from the very first page kept me hooked and my heart racing fast!

    What I liked most about this book is the plot line and the mysteriousness of it. If anything, I love being kept in the dark only to dive into the book faster in order to piece together whats really going on. So much intense moments of the book made my giddy! I like that the plot line involved not only a school but that kids run it. I am so curious to known what the school is hiding.

    The characters of the book are strong and loud. I loved that the characters raised questions and broke rules. Benson the main character really kept the reader asking questions as well as answering them. I love that Benson was not taken by the rules. He is not afraid to ask and to snoop around. Plus his bad boy rebelling attitude had me at hello!

    The love interest really freaked me out as much as it did to Benson. I so did not see that coming and gasp! I had no idea that it will lead this way but it raised even more questions!! The ending definitely left me hooked and wanting more!!

    Variant is a novel of mysterious and great writing. Every page turn left you wanting more. Every word left you breathing short. And every turn of the page took you on a reading adventure like no other.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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