Review: Variant

Posted: August 5, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Robison Wells, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Ever since we started this lovely little blog we’ve found our horizons broadened. Out of necessity–and due to our unwavering commitment to be being completely awesome–we read a pretty much everything that is sent to us. If we had to point at one area where our appreciation has grown significantly, it would be with YA novels.

That brings us to Robison Wells and his first major novel, VARIANT (Amazon). It is completely awesome. Why? Because we said so.

Let’s start with a brief little synopsis of VARIANT. The novel follows Benson Fisher, a perpetual foster care kid. He’s given a chance to go to a super exclusive private school, Maxfield Academy. Within the first few opening pages of the novel, Benson is dropped off at the front gate.

And then everything goes wrong.

By the time Benson even has an inkling as to what is going on, it’s far too late to leave. There are no adults at Maxfield Academy. Just students who can’t even really recall how long they’ve been there. They are split up into three gangs, each of which try to recruit Benson. The real story here is the mystery behind Maxfield Academy. What is really going on here? That is what Benson tries to discover, and it is what makes this novel so incredibly fun to read.

Wells grabs your attention right from the beginning. This is important in any novel, in in a YA novel especially. The mystery is introduced immediately, and it’s easy to share Benson’s sense of bewilderment at the crazy circumstances of the school.

Since the novel is told from a First Person PoV, it’s important that the main character is easy to get behind. This is one of Wells main strengths as an author. Maybe it’s Benson’s tone, or just the way he thinks a little differently about things, but he is instantly accessible. As a reader it is incredibly easy to just kick back and enjoy the mystery and the journey as seen through Benson’s eyes.

The pacing of the novel is undeniably smooth. Not once did the novel get bogged down–an accomplishment for any novel. Again, this partially relates back to the accessibility of the main protagonist. We devoured this novel in one sitting. Now we know what you are thinking. “Don’t you do that with a ton of novels?” This is true, but there are very different reasons for it from book to book. Sometimes the novel is just short. Sometimes the novel sucks so bad that we just want to get it over with. But sometimes it is because we literally couldn’t put it down. VARIANT falls under that last category.

The first half of the novel will keep you interested in a general mystery…or at least what you think is the mystery. Then half-way through VARIANT comes the twist, and it will grab you by the neck and not let go until you have read the last half of the novel. Seriously, you should fully plan on devoting a few consecutive hours to this book. Otherwise you will look up at 3am like we did after finishing the novel and wonder how you are even going to function at work the next day. You won’t just be interested in the novel, you’ll by hypnotized by it’s awesomeness.

You readers have no idea how badly we want to talk about the twist of the novel (which we are proud to say we guessed), or the ending. Just trust us on this, the ending will floor you, and you will absolutely beg for the next novel to come out immediately. This is how all debut novels should make a reader feel, but few actually manage to pull off.

VARIANT follows foster kid Benson who is accepted into a private academy...that turns out to be something completely unexpected.

Go buy this book.


Well, preorder it anyway…

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Don't recall any
  • Violence: There is some crazy stuff in this book. It's disturbing, and completely awesome. If we say anything more, it will totally ruin the shock of the experience.
  • Sex: Nope

Go take a peek at Rob’s website. Not only does he talk about VARIANT, but he also has an awesome series of posts about food.


  • koshr says:

    not to attack your integrity here but since i guess you are friends with this guy this review sound very much like advertisement ^^

    • Surely you realize by now that even though we are friends with various authors, we are always honest in our representation of the novel. For example we are friends with Brandon Sanderson. This doesn't mean we love his stuff unconditionally–in fact we have pointed out some stuff we really don't like in his works. Rob Wells' book VARIANT is an extremely good YA novel. End of story.

      If we like a book, it is because we like the book. If we think it sucks, it is because we think it sucks. It has nothing to do with our friendship with said author.

      As a reviewer, reading the book a friend has written is one of the most frightening things you'll do. Why? Because if it sucks you have to say so. That's why we make it clear to our friends that when we read their novels, we aren't their friends during the reading or reviewing process. We are media.

      Make sense?

    • Vanessa says:

      Knowing Steve and Nick as I do, believe me when I say they have NO qualms telling their own friends when their stuff sucks. Trust me.

    • SeekingPlumb says:

      I second Vanessa. They're brutally honest. That's what makes their reviews so worthwhile.

    • @koshr – And I hope you didn't take my comment as me lashing out at you. You brought up something that could very well be a legitimate concern among other readers, and is likely a problem among other blogs. It just seemed like a great opportunity to explain how we do things in this type of situation (since I don't think we have talked about it before…)

  • Tharrow says:

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for all the wonderful reviewing! Lets me have lots of material!

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