Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 04 Oct 2011
Series or Standalone: Series
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Robison Wells – Blog
Place(s) Traveled to: New Mexico
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Variant Series Order
Book 1: Variant
Book 2: Feedback (~Fall 2012)
First Line: “This isn’t one of those scare-you-straight schools, is it?” I asked Mrs Vaughn as we passed through the chain-link gate.
Variant by Robison Wells was a book that I was really excited about when I received a copy of it as it was by a male author with male point of view. I don’t come across many books these days with that combo and so I was looking forward for the change. At the start I really feel into the story and was curious about this odd boarding school that Benson found himself in. But it wasn’t long before the story seemed to fizzle out for me.
This is one of those books where its hard to pin point what exactly it was that I didn’t like. It could have been the excessive amount of paintball. It seemed like every other chapter the kids were off playing paintball with another crazy set of rules but no real purpose behind it. Ok so it wasn’t every other chapter but it seemed like that and when it was brought up those scenes just went on FOREVER. I eventually found myself skipping those scenes but then I would stop and go back to read just in case I missed something…and when I didn’t I felt like I wasted precious time when I could have been moving on in the story.
There were also many moments in the book when Benson was interacting with the carious girls where the scenes just felt so stilted and false. I’d re-read some of these scenes and think to myself that no girl that I know would talk or act like the girl in this scene. So those moments were a bit of a struggle as I was taken out of the story as I would comment to the book about how this wouldn’t happen in real life. This being the awkward scene between Benson and the girls…not the kids trapped in an adult free school playing strange war games and taking odd classes….because well that’s just totally believable. (And yes I know its not but its fiction and I can set aside reality for the sake of a good story.)
The ending of this one also felt a bit rushed. I think that there could have been less time spent playing paintball and more time used to flesh out that ending a little bit. I know that Variant is the start of a series and that not everything would be wrapped up…but more time could have been devoted to laying the groundwork for the sequel. I like fast paced books but this one just had such a slow build that when the ending goes into full speed it was just a bit jarring and left me wondering where it all came from.
There were some interesting twists in this book and I like how it was different from other books that I’ve been reading. The boarding school set up was very different than one normally finds in books these days. And most refreshing of all there were no vampires or werewolves or other crazy paranormal creatures. I am so burnt out on the paranormal that its nice to see that there are stories out there that don’t need to go to the supernatural in order to build a story. While Variant may not have thrilled me I am still curious enough about this story to check out Feedback and see what happens next. I think that this is a story that could really take off as the series progresses now that the world and characters are all established. My only hope is that there is no paintball mentioned in book 2.