Variant by Robison Wells

T.G.I.F. Figs! Did you have a long and torturous week? Did your teachers cap off that week by assigning math homework loaded with nonsense you’ll probably never apply in life? Man, if only there were a school where teachers were off minding their own business, not assigning us Figs work over the weekend, when we obviously have better things to do (like enter the American Boy Contest, maybe?) . . .

Well, Variant, by Robison Wells, has just the sort of school you’re dreaming about! Maxfield Academy has no adults whatsoever and is run by the students. Doesn’t this just sound amazing?! The only adult who bothers you is some old-looking guy known as Iceman, who watches you and everyone else through the many cameras on campus and issues out punishments and detentions when you break the rules . . . Hmm. Maybe we jumped the gun here on whether or not this is a good idea . .

Let’s see if you still love the idea of an adult-free, can’t-get-out-alive school after we rate Wells’s novel on our Figment Scale of Awesome:

+46 for paintball-splattering scenes! The students at Maxfield get out their aggression through paintball, which is basically a narrative ploy to let everyone shoot each other without deathly consequences. Well played, Wells. Well played.

-27 for taking away the Internet. I get it.  I really really really do. You don’t want your young characters having access to the Internet or they might reach out for help or whatever, but where does this leave Figment?! In the sequel, Wells, please provide Figment-limited Internet, and we’ll forget about this little slip-up. Capische?

+188 for Benson Fisher knowing something ain’t right. In a lot of dystopias, main characters tend to take a couple hundred pages to wake up and smell the coffee, but Benson is happily sipping his white-chocolate mocha by page 14. On top of awarding him these points, I also nominate Benson Most Likely To Survive a Horror Flick.

-10 for dead parents. For any newcomers to this blog, we’re constantly deducting points for The Tragic Axing of Parents in Young Adult Lit. And Variant is no exception: Bensonparents = orphan, and orphan = points deducted. (Huh. I guess you do use math post-high school.)

+200 for a great twist! James Dashner (The Maze Runner) blurbed that the twist in Variant was his favorite since Ender’s Game and that set the bar space-high. I’m happy to report that Variant delivers, and what I thought I saw coming was wrong, Figs.

This brings Variant to a total of 397 points plus a nomination on behalf of its on-his-toes protagonist. You guys should, and can, meet this smart lad Benson by picking up a copy of this awesomely thrilling novel in which teachers are missing and somehow detention is worst than ever! Enjoy your detention-free weekend, Figaronis!

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