Variant, by Robison Wells (2011)

Genre: Science Fiction
Interest Level: 14-18
VariantI have a sneaking suspicion I should not like this book. Implausible plot aside, though, I had a grand time with it. Benson Fisher wins a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, and feels his prospects are finally looking up, leaving his painful foster child existence behind. The first clue that things may not be as he expects appears when approaching the massive stone building surrounded by fields, stone walls and, um, a razor-wire fence? Two teens run wildly past him as he ascends the steps, yelling that he shouldn’t trust Oakland or Isaiah. Becky arrives to welcome him, perfectly coiffed and with an unyielding smile. She finally reveals that Maxfield Academy is, in essence, a prison. A school with video cameras instead of adults. Only a few rules, but for which punishment is death. Lord of the Flies, meet the modern boarding school. The kids, predictably, fell into vicious battles and soon sorted into factions. Today, an uneasy truce now exists, but it’s fragile. Into this landscape arrives Benson, 16 and toughened on the streets of Pittsburgh. Benson is the only reasonable person in the entire school. He’s soon convinced they are all nuts and decides to escape as soon as he can. But escape isn’t so easy, and the bodies are starting to pile up. Heads up for the squeamish – it gets a bit violent. But it’s a roller-coaster ride, with twists I did not see coming. And Benson is a great protagonist, with dreams, desires and a well-developed sense of self-preservation. Not for everyone, but a great addition to YA sci-fi fans, I think.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10433900-variant

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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