Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Variant by Robison Wells

HarperTeen, 2011
Benson has lived in over thirty foster homes in the Pittsburgh area.  He's tired of it all, and wants out, wants some normalcy.  That's why he was so surprised when Ms. Vaughn came.  Filling out a scholarship to Maxfield Academy on his own, Benson was happy to learn he had been accepted and now he and Ms. Vaughn were on their way there.

As they pull up to this prestigious school, Benson is filled with anticipation.  Within the first hour there, he knows something is not right.  The door that closed behind him was locked.  Becky, the first person he met for initiation, is acting strangely.  And the kids beating on the windows?  What was that all about?

It doesn't take long for Benson to realize that he's trapped.  There are no teachers, no adults.  Just three factions of teens - Society, whose members run security; Havoc, whose members run the cafeteria; and Variant....those that do the maintenance.  Benson is being coerced to join Society and Havoc, but he places himself in Variant's group, all the while planning on how to get out....

Stories begin to emerge about those that try to escape.  No one ever has, according to those that have been at Maxfield Academy the longest.  But why would anyone want to leave?  They have food, warmth, education, which is much better than being in foster care or homeless.  But it doesn't dissuade Benson from plotting, even if it means facing detention....which no one ever comes back from.  But how to escape?  There are cameras everwhere, and the schedules vary - sometimes going to class at 7 am, sometimes at 10 am. Big brother is watching and listening to every action and word.  The Iceman is always there, handing out punishments and rewards on-screen, knowing exactly what's happening.  Benson has no escape.  Until.....

Lord of the Flies...meet Big Brother.  Wells serves out an excellent YA novel with twists and turns that the readers won't expect in a science fiction novel.  Wells's writing will take you from the first page to the last with a big surprise right when you least expect it.  He creates a dystopian world set in the real world, call it a world within a world, and provokes the reader to either love of hate those who want to stay or go.  For those guys who want a great thriller comparable to Kevin Brooks' Being, be sure to put this one in their hands.  This is just the first in a trilogy, and I can't WAIT for the next one (I have a love/hate relationship with cliff hanger endings)!!!!  Recommended for high school.

2 comments:

simplyscience said...

I've noticed the brutality increasing in YA books recently. This and Divergent both seemed to reflect that trend. Is this something you've noticed?

naomibates said...

Most of what I've read in the past six months haven't always been brutal, but with dystopian reads becoming more popular, there is a struggle, and sometimes brutality, that becomes part of the story. It might also be what's trending because dystopia novels are so popular right now.
But brutality has been around in YA books for a long time, and there are some teens who enjoy books like this, hence why Ellen Hopkins is so popular. My take? I believe they like to "experience" it without ever having to live with it....