Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Not The Boarding School Of My Dreams

A review of Variant by Robison Wells, in which students are trapped in an evil boarding school.

Not The Boarding School Of My Dreams

BOOK REPORT for Variant (Variant Book 1) by Robison Wells

Cover Story: Legit
BFF Charm: YAY!
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factor: Evil Boarding School, Mystery
Relationship Status: A Rebound That Turned Into More

Cover Story: Legit

Love the out of focus picture! Love the colors! Does the girl in the red sweatshirt looking back at us make sense? Sort of? But look! James Dashner is quoted on the cover! And he wrote The Maze Runner! And he's super nice!

The Deal:

Benson Fisher has been in foster care since he was 5-years old, and while some homes were better than others, he knew that he wanted MORE for his life. Change came in the form of a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, so you can imagine how incredibly bummed he is when he arrives -- and finds out that now that he's there, he can never leave. There are no adults at Maxfield, and all of the students have one thing in common: none of them have families who will come looking for them. The students have all formed alliances and gangs, and receive their daily instructions via video from a man no one has ever met, but who controls them all.

There are few rules at Maxfield, but the punishment for breaking them is severe, and as Benson tries to figure out what exactly is going on, and how he can escape, he learns that he truly can trust no one...

BFF Charm: YAY!

Benson is totally somebody I'd want to be trapped in an evil boarding school with. He's smart and kind and resourceful, which is why I would befriend him and follow him around and hope he could save/protect me, but I also kind of felt like I was hanging out with him while I was reading this, and that was nice, too. It's not too often that you feel like you get to know a male protagonist in an action book, and I was glad to get to know Benson.

There were so many other characters that deserve shout outs, but for the sake of time, I'm just going to go with Becky, because girl, as annoying as you are, I feel you. If I were in your situation at your age, I'd probably be a super-uptight rule follower who tried to be nice to everybody, too.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Wells' writing is pulse pounding and fun to read, but not so much in the way of swoon. There are some love connections, but I didn't really feel them quite like I thought I was supposed to. However, something developed near the end of the book that hinted at a promise to raise the score in the sequel.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

The action and suspense begins in the first chapter, and Benson's voice felt authentic as he tried to figure out what in the world was going on at Maxfield Academy. The mystery was so good that I couldn't put the book down as I speculated along with Benson about what in the world was going on. And then the mystery was revealed, and I think I may have shouted "Hold the phone!" because WHA?!!!! I had no idea what the big reveal was going to be, but I never would have believed it was THAT. So I stumbled a bit, as a reader, until I just decided to go with it, and then I was able to get behind the new plot twists and try to figure out what the what was going to happen next. And the ending? Killer. One of the most surprising cliffhangers of the year.

Bonus Factor: Evil Boarding School

Once you enter, you'll never leave!!! Aaahhhh! It's not the boarding school itself that's evil -- this is no American Haunting -- but how awesome/awful would it be if you got accepted at a boarding school, and then it turned out to be run by evil people or part of a government experiment or something like that?!!!

Bonus Factor: Mystery

As an adult reader of YA, I'm super appreciative of a good mystery, and the way this one unfolds really is spine-tinglingly terrific. In fact, there's so much mystery in this book, I can't even make any more bonus factors without spoiling something!

Casting Call:

Let's see, what actor can be both tough and sweet, an inspiring leader, and pull off the role of reluctant hero?

John Boyega as Benson

John proved he was a total pro at all of those things in that one slowmo' scene running down the hallway in Attack The Block.

Kaya Scodelario as Becky

I really think Kaya is one of the best actresses of her age, and if anyone could pull off Becky's overly-cheery personality without making you want to deliver a facepunch, it's her.

Relationship Status: A Rebound That Turned Into More

You know what they say: the best way to get over a breakup is to go out and have fun. I've personally always followed the tactic of 'stay in and watch tv until you fall asleep' post breakup, but after my ex, Mockingjay, ripped my heart out and ate all my croissants, I decided to try something different. And that's how I met this book. It was fast and wild and thrilling, and if I'm honest, a lot of the things I had always wished my ex would be. Of course, I wasn't looking to get back on the commitment horse right away, and this book understood that, so we parted ways with an "I'll see you around", because by the time its sequel comes out I might be ready to get serious again.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Harper Collins. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Variant is available now.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
K