Variant is about Maxfield Academy, a school recommended for all those people who have no families, no friends, no life, which is according to many, the best option for Benson Fisher, a teen who's been to about seventeen different families since he lost his parents at five. However, he sees two kids running like heck on his way in, and then finds that the door is locked behind him. Now he's in an academy where there are only sixty-four students, and there are three gangs: Havoc, the most violent, Society, the group in charge of order; even security, and V's, which stands for Variants, the ones kind of outside the system and stick together. I bet you can guess which one Benson goes into, despite the fact the V's have less people than you can count on two hands. And yes, Society is in charge of security, meaning they patrol the walls. Turns out, there's no adults in the school. Just students who educate themselves and try to stay on task with the head who is only shown on the screen: Iceman. But Benson needs to find a way out fast, before he succumbs to life at the Wi-fi free academy and before he is sent to detention.
So did I read this book fast? You betcha. Will reluctant readers probably love this? Yeah, if they can excuse some flaws and just want a fun book. In fact, I decided after reading this book to bump two other books I read this year that I gave a 2 star grade to down to a 1 and a half. Look, I feel the main problem is this book dives into an escape frenzy too early. Right from the get go, Benson wants to get out, and it's understandable as a person but there could've been more time for us to understand Benson's character before he is put in purgatory. On that note, the book, according to Kirkus Reviews, is "hard to put down from the very first page" and they're right, so I guess for this case, it can also be a lose-lose situation. What I would've done is wait a little until Benson's in the academy before he really thinks about escape. The fact he is close to escape at the very start negated any feel that he was really really trapped and doomed.
One of the reasons I wish he postponed escape plans for a little bit of the book was so we could meet some of the individual characters better as well. Benson makes some friends; Jane, Lily, Mason, Curtis, and some enemies; Isaiah, Oakland, maybe or maybe not Becky. But it takes a little while before we can visualize any of them and none of these characters we care about that much. We end up hating Isaiah but there's not much special about the others. Curtis and Carrie are also a strange couple. Do they want out of the Maxfield nuthut? At first, I thought "Yes" but it keeps becoming more of an "Uh..." There are also a few questionable ideas, such as how Benson admits things to his colleagues that I would have preferred been kept a secret. And after the marvellous Escape from Furnace series, Maxfield Academy really doesn't seem like a prison too tricky to bust out of, and I felt there were sections of the school we are introduced to that are underutilized, and I ended up with more questions than at the start.
One element of the story I found surprising and enjoyed was some of the side characters being okay with the way they are. Actually, the more I think about it, this is almost like a companion book to The Maze Runner. Anyway, back to my point; Benson starts to get why, against everything else, people enjoy life at the school, and there are believable elements that reminded me of days in, say, fourth grade when I hated school like medicine, and I was starting to see positive parts. There are also times where the writing actually pulls through, like when Benson starts tension in front of his entire class for something the teacher, I mean Laura, says in front of the class that to him smells funky. That was the best chapter. And there is an enjoyable paragraph where Benson tries to imagine why this school was even built in the first place, and his theories are really genius and it's fun to listen to him contradicting. And the twist is not very shaking like the cliffhangers of better series like Red Rising, Red Queen and Michael Vey, but yeah, it's decent.
In the end, reading Variant is like being teleported onto a roller coaster where you missed the tension of the first lift and the horror of the first drop. I probably would've loved this book back in elementary school, and those who don't read as many books as me will probably like it, but this is my final grade. Action in books is marvellous, but so is story, characters and setting.