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. (From Goodreads)
Variant by Robison Wells really surprised me in a good way. I was a bit let down after reading Beautiful Creatures before this one and other experiences this year. I felt a lot of the supernatural books in YA were starting to get to predictable. Variant is a dystopia but still my expectations were decreased. This is not predictable, it is never boring and has characters I believe in.
Maybe one of the reasons this really worked for me is that the story acts within certain limitations. The students are trapped inside a school ground and they know very little about what happens on the other side of those video cameras. This gives the author more room to develop the plot and build the tension and mood in the story. I also have to say that I personally found it a bit refreshing and relieving not to have to put my mind to another society or universe just this once. Because it is kind of demanding to do so in every book you read and first of all is it demanding for the writer to develop such a universe and society and not everyone can do this as well as others.
What Robison Wells really can do well is to create a very unpleasant mood with a couple of surprising twists and turns. I both enjoyed and disliked not knowing how bad this could go and not knowing what would happen to any of the characters and who to trust . It's still well within the boundaries of what I can endure. Benson is a character I think most people can identify and/or sympathize with. He's the one who asks questions about what is happening to them and he's the one who takes matters in to action when the rest of them either doesn't want to or are to afraid. He could be a little more careful in my opinion but I understand his actions and his flaws make him very human. I think most of us wants to be that brave person that just don't accept injustice. I can also understand the students that are too afraid or too comfortable with the situation. What they all have in commom is that no one is missing them. They came from fostercare where they were unhappy and probably thought they were really lucky to get in to this private academy.
Variant is a very thrilling and unpredictable read. I was not only surprised but even a bit shocked during my read. Languagewise it is not the greatest exsperience of all times but it works and the book has something even more important, a good story. I have very high excpectations for the next book, Feedback, that is already out in english. Have any of you read it by the way? I have to warn you that this ends with a real cliffhanger so it could be nice to have the sequel close at hand. I think I am going to wait for the norwegian book to come out in 2013 since I read this in norwegian, but the english version might just end up in my cart the next time I'm in buying books online.
A gift from the norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm for a book blog tour