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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Audible Book Review: Variant by Robison Wells

This YA has a ‘dystopian’ bent and some surprises.
Written by: Robison Wells
Narrated by: Michael Goldstrom
Length: 8 hrs and 5 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:10-04-11
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Sci Fi, Teens
My Rating: 3.75 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape - his only real hope for survival - may be impossible.
©2011 Robison Wells (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers

Benson Fisher has been in the foster system most of his life. He jumped at the opportunity to get a scholarship to the special Maxfield Academy. A strange woman delivers him to the school where he is surprised to discover only teens – no adults. He quickly learns that he, and the other kids, are trapped but Becky, the girl who is trying to provide orientation, doesn’t seem to care that the school is a prison. They cannot go beyond the high brick walls which lie within the razor-wire fence. There are cameras monitoring their behavior and there is no contact with the world outside.

Although they receive computer announcements and instructions from “the academy” all other tasks are performed by the students. The teens are divided into groups who have contracted jobs to run the school. Initially each of the groups, Society, Havoc and Variant, try to recruit Benson. He chooses Variant hoping to find an ally who might help him escape. Unfortunately, all the kids are convinced there is no escape and if you break the rules you are punished. If you break the primary rules, like trying to escape, you may be sent to detention. And the kids who go to detention don’t return; they disappear.

Benson’s first attempt at escape doesn’t work so he consigns himself to gather information for a better plan. He struggles with the rules and tries to learn how to help his team win at paint ball even when it means he takes a beating. He is befriended by one of the young girls, Jane, who has been there the longest. As they grow closer, she tries to cheer him and get him to drop his dreams of escape. When Jane and Benson are attacked, he learns a horrifying secret. Who can he trust and how can he convince the others of the secret he has uncovered? How can they escape before something more terrible happens?

There is mystery early in the book, but I found the beginning slow to engage me. I became more interested as the action (paint ball battles) picked up. The story slogs through some repetition and teenage angst, but I did get to a point where I wanted to find out what happened. There is a scary twist and confrontation as the end nears and then another twist at the cliffhanger ending.

Benson is a bit self-centered and impulsive... like many teens. Even though I am not enthralled by the characters, there are many questions left open at the end of book one. Although the second book seems to have more mixed reviews and I didn't feel this quite rated a 4.0 rating, I am leaning towards getting Feedback because I am curious to know where the author takes the story..

Audio Notes: Michael Goldstrom does a good job narrating the teen characters. He manages to convey the tones of cheerfulness, fear, bravado, anger, snideness, meanness and other aspects fitting the teens. I think the audio version helped me move along in the story which might have been more difficult in print/ebook.

This title came from my Audible Library (2012). It qualifies for Mount TBR, Audiobook Challenge and "V" for my Alphabet Soup Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. This sounds like an interesting story, I don't normally read this type of story. I think I will add this to my list to give it a try.


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