4.4 126
by Robison Wells

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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

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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.

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.”
“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.”
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

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.94(d)
HL640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

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.”
Pittacus Lore
“An intense journey with some of the most shocking twists and turns I’ve ever read.”

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Variant 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
Readergirl_Revus More than 1 year ago
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!!
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
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)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfect read. Cant wait for the secong!
MichelleMadow More than 1 year ago
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!
E_Ting_Groceries 7 months ago
‘Variant’ is certainly a novel full of mystery, anxiousness, thrill, suspicion, and more. When Benson Fisher moves to the private school of Maxfield Academy because of a scholarship, he expects to meet great friends, get a fantastic education, and have a lively experience. Little doe she know, this was far stretched from reality. As soon as Benson enters the school, he is forced to join a gang - the Variants - to try and fight to keep his life. At this abnormal academy, the doors are locked, it’s surrounded by a razor wire fence, there are no adults, everyone's every move is tracked on a computer system, and breaking the rules means death. This school has no sanity whatsoever. When Benson finally realizes what his ‘perfect’ school has been hiding, he tries to escape but is brought to find that it is impossible. The plot of this story is fairly simple to follow; the author really focuses on the action and adventure in the story rather than the dialogue. It is very interesting to see how each gang intertwines, yet contradict one another. Some gangs are more rebellious than others, causing competition and disagreements. Although, throughout the story their similarities will start to shine through. While reading this story you’ll start to think about how grateful we really should be for our lives as they are, but all of a sudden something traumatic like this can happen. It’s also nice to strategize your own life in Benson’s situation. As soon as you pick up this novel, you won’t be able to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really suprising suspensful and amazing book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first book i got on my nook and i absolutley loved it! I would recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazingggg. The ending wasent the best, but i still enjoyed the book! Recomended 4 13&up Becca:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 :(
KimballSK More than 1 year ago
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!
starofthebunch More than 1 year ago
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!
ReadingCorner More than 1 year ago
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.
BJBruner More than 1 year ago
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!
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
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.
KSowa More than 1 year ago
This book started out a little slow for me, but as the mystery starts to unfold, it definitely picks up the pace. Because there is such mystery surrounding the school, you find yourself constantly trying to guess what could really be happening. The characters were strong and had enough depth to get you invested in their well being as they try to navigate the minefield of rules and social structure of Maxfield Academy. I also liked the emotional development of Benson, who is more of a "looking out for number one" type, but starts to really care about what happens to his classmates. The tag-line "trust no one" is certainly apt, because as you read the book, you really can't trust that you know what any of the characters will do or who they will be. One of the best elements is that even after you know what the big secret is, the questions don't stop there. The cryptic warnings from the students and the action, both physical and psychological, keeps you on the edge of your seat for most of the book. The ending is a good old fashioned cliff hanger and I'm a little perturbed that I have to wait for the next book to find out what happens! I gave Variant 4 stars.
NaughtyBrent More than 1 year ago
So, this book? Is pretty freaking compelling. But before I start gushing, let me get one thing clear: this book is not dystopian. No matter what anyone tells you, it is unique and original and fresh and omg and thrilling, but it is not dystopian. VARIANT was one of my vacation reads, and I must say, I couldn't have picked a better one! I read the first hundred pages on the way down to FL, and I was so hooked that I didn't even mind my aching back (sitting for that long is hard, y'know). And when I actually arrived and was able to finish the book on the beach: absolute bliss! Though I read this book months ago, I still remember how addictive the story is and the complete shock I felt after those closing chapters. In VARIANT, Benson Fisher arrives at Maxfield Academy with one thing: hope that this will be the end to his cliché foster-kid life. But when he finds out that there are no adults in the Academy-only students, who teach themselves and, somehow, form a system on how things run-he realizes that education is the last thing on the owners of Maxfield's minds, and that he's a guinea pig in a big experiment. Can I also just say Thank the Lord this book has no snarky female protagonist? Benson Fisher is completely relatable and I sort of found him funny. His romance with one of the students, Jane, was icing on the cake. Honestly, do I recommend you go out and buy this book and READ IT IMMEDIATELY? No. Because there is a huge, larger-than-life cliffhanger at the end, you should go out and buy it and, a week before the sequel comes out, read it then!
Spade4 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, probably the best book I've read about kids my age. I love all the evilness and twisted secrets about it and can't wait to read book 2.
grc1976 11 months ago
This is a fast pace book with nice twists through out. I had a hard time putting it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the bet book I've ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book great since page one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book just seemed waayy to much like the maze runner which btw the maze runner was much better. I also didn't like how everyone either died or ended up being a bot in the end. Usually I don't like the main characters and this is one of those times. To me Benson was annoying and self centered, all he cared about was himself and he was rude and bossy to the other students, they tried to tell him there was no way out but he didn't listen, and that does not me him heroic. It means he's stupid and doesn't think before he acts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an extremely good book, with suspense, drama, and, well, stuff! I especially loved the part where (spoiler alert!), Benson Fisher finds out that his girlfriend is an android! Well, from what you can tell.....