Think Maze Runner crossed with Lord of the Flies peppered with a few androids in disguise and you have the foundation for Variant. Benson Fisher is a foster child bounced from home to home, school to school, never staying in one place for too long before he is uprooted. In his seventeen years he has been bounced around thirty three foster families. He doesn't seem like a bad kid, but he certainly has had experiences that make him wizened and tough. When he sees an ad for a private school with a lucrative scholarship that seems tailor made for him, he applies and is accepted. Here you have to suspend your disbelief a bit because there's no way that someone in the foster system could just up and leave their foster placement and go to a private school without someone asking a whole lot of questions and there being a whole lot of paperwork. And yet, Benson is whisked away from Philadelphia to New Mexico to a school that is nothing like the ivy league-ish prep school he envisioned. It's more akin to the roach motel where roaches check in but they don't check out. From the first moment he lays eyes on the Maxfield Academy, he suspects that something sinister is lurking behind the wealthy facade. He quickly becomes determined to escape but escape--while his best chance at survival--may be impossible.
There are some plot holes that one has to overlook to accept the premise. However, and this has bothered for me years, why is it when a group faced with a survival situation where it would be most beneficial for the participants or members of the group to band together, to utilize all available resources for the common good, and develop the strengths of the group but instead they splinter into cliques and jealousy guard what they do have and covet what they don't, plotting ways to make their little group stronger? The troubling answer is that most people go through life as sheep and never question their circumstances, blindly accepting status quo and are willing to "do battle" to protect their corner of the world because it is known and familiar. Watch the reality shows like Survivor, even the Bachelor. Watch crowd behavior. It is easy to see that people very often are illogical and fail to see the wisdom of uniting and working together. I am not sure why this is, but I see it played out all the time in real life. Hopefully, if I ever land in a situation fighting for survival I will be a Darwin and not a sheep.
Good writing keeps this novel fast-paced and riveting. It is suspenseful and creepy. And, of course, it ends with a cliffhanger! I think this will be a fan favorite! Looking forward to the next one in the series.