Sometimes, when you read a book’s synopsis, you’re expecting things to be a certain way, situations, you’re always imagining what the story might be like, and how you might like it, or not. Some other times, you’re completely thrown off by what the story turns out to be. This is exactly what happened with Variant. I expected it to be one mysterious story, and it was. But it was way, way crazier than I’d imagined it to be.
BEHIND THE FENCES AND CAMERAS, SECRETS…
“I had a feeling there was something wrong with me. I guess I was a mystery even to myself.”
Foster child, our main character is heading towards his new school, his new life, and well, what he hopes to be will shape him a better future. Dragged from family to family since he was little, he’s finally hoping to find some kind of home, education and a great, solid basis to get into life on his own, finally. But behind those huge fences, and the lenses of a billion cameras, what really is happening in that school? Right from the first pages, we are drawn into that mystery, just wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into. We’re as clueless as the main character, and if that is sometimes frustrating, here, it was perfectly used to build up suspense and make us feel stressed, curious, and always wanting more. As far as suspenseful, mystery YA novel goes, Variant really holds a good place, and Robison Wells knows how to build it up perfectly. From the start, until the very end, I felt compelled to read more.
A LACK OF CHARACTERIZATION
“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”
As you all know, since this is probably the case for you guys, too, characters are important, and I’m not saying this lightly. As a contemporary lover, I love it when they are well-built-up, and we know little details about them, making them feel real, three-dimensional, and just, like their lives are unfolding before our eyes. I get though, that in fantasy, mystery, dystopian novels, etc, there’s a big place for world-building, suspense-building etc, so that doesn’t leave too much of a place to develop the characters very well. To be honest, that’s what I missed in Variant. Even if the main character is one you can grow fond of, I never really felt close enough to him to love the book as much as I could have. I felt some distance, I felt like I couldn’t really grasp his whole personality. We do get to know him, his history, bit by bits, and from all of his actions we can completely understand that he’s a faithful friend, determinate, kind of stubborn, curious to bits, etc etc. However, I missed a little connection, I felt like it lacked some deepness. The same thing goes for the secondary characters. If we get to meet a bunch of different names -and it took me a while to get accustomed to this, we don’t really know them too well, and that’s too bad.
SURPRISING, YET A BIT FAMILIAR
“I don’t always have to understand the people I love.”
If the novel lacked in characterization, the crazy suspense and ups-and-downs of the plot made up for it, a little bit. Variant takes you up on a roller coaster, and I felt like I wanted more, more, and more, the pages flew by very quickly. And the plot twist really got me, I was sitting, and I would have fallen off my chair if there weren’t people around. It was really crazy, unexpected, yet, good. Because a book able to surprise you, it’s a good thing, no? However, one tiny drawback about this whole plotting, pacing, many characters… in the blurb, this book is described as great for “Maze Runner” fans, and I can DEFINITELY see that. Maybe a little bit too much? It felt familiar to James Dashner’s pacing, suspense and just, the many characters, everything reminded me on the back of my head of that famous series… even if, to be honest, in the plot, it’s nothing alike.
If you’re looking for a mystery book to keep you reading all night long, then do pick up Variant. If I missed a little bit of characterization, it was still a highly-entertaining read, that, if you’re fans of James Dashner, you should really enjoy.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Did you read Variant? Do you want to read it? How important is a good characterization to you, in novels? Share your thoughts in comments!
Robison Wells, Variant, Published by HarperTeen, October 4th 2011.
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.