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If You Give a Geek a Computer (Book Review: Variant by Robison Wells)

So last night I was thumbing through a journal and there was a one sheet ad from Harper Teen with all their starred books including Variant by Robison Wells.  As the ad said Variant has received a starred review from VOYA magazine (and a lot of other places) and I thought to myself, “Hey, I did that!”

Then I got online and Tweeted what I just mentioned above and I follow Robison Wells (you should totally follow him too) and he responded!  The actual “conversation” went like this:

TLT: I am loving seeing ads for Variant by @robisonwells where it says it got a starred review from @voyamagazine. I did that! #totally deserved.

Robison Wells: I love seeing those ads too! THANKS!

True or False, when he responded I was a giddy little fangirl?

Then I remembered that he had tweeted that he had received a box of ARCs for the upcoming sequel to Variant, Feedback.

So I went and looked at his web page and there were pictures of him holding the ARCs right there on the front page.  After a brief moment of gooey green envy (Where’s my ARC the green monster said?!), I remembered that I had visited his page before and he had shared about having a panic disorder. So I decided to read any updates because I think it is brave and noble and an act of kindness when people with any type of health issues share their story, especially when they share stories about things that teens can identify with and know that they are not alone. (Please note: possibly the longest run on sentence ever, but I am going with it.)

Robison Wells taunts us with ARCs of Feedback.  Read all about it at www.robisonwells.com

So I was reading along and he shared that he was having a new issue, a compulsion towards self harm in a post entitled My Stupid Brain.  And again, he bravely shared his story and I was moved by it and thought, you know, this is something that teens really need to hear about. In my career as a teen librarian I have come across way too many stories of teens who have a tendency to harm self as a way to relieve their pain and it breaks my heart.  So Mr. Wells, thank you for sharing.

Then I totally geeked out and wondered exactly what I had said about Variant and I googled it; to my amazement my entire review was right there on Robison Wells page.  I am not going to lie, I squeeed a little bit.  Okay, maybe a lot.  This is what I said last summer, and it is still true today:

“Benson Foster will try anything to escape the foster care system, but when he enrolls in Maxfield Academy, he finds that he is escaping one type of hell only to be trapped in another, truly deadly, one. There are no adults at the academy; the students do everything from teaching to preparing meals and security. There are four main rules: no sex, no violent fighting, no refusing punishments, and no trying to escape. Students who break the rules are sent to detention, and they never come back. Benson is trying to find a way to escape, and along the way he finds some devastating secrets: some of the students are not who they seem to be.

Variant is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat read that combines psychological themes from works like Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game in a truly unique way. There are a couple of twists that are truly surprising and up the emotional ante of the story. From the moment Benson enters the academy until the very end, readers are caught in a tight, tense thriller. What is the academy and why are the students there? Wells does a good job of both universe building and character development, as the rules unfold and character roles become clearer. There is a slow unfolding of academy secrets that proves to be just the right pacing. In the end, Benson may escape the walls of the school but he stumbles upon an even bigger mystery. Variant should join the ranks of today’s must-read science fiction and fantasy series . This is a highly recommended addition to any collection for teens.” (Originally published in VOYA, also found at Two Awesome Variant Reviews)

Then I thought, I have to remind everyone to go read Variant because the sequel, Feedback, is coming out in October 2012 and you don’t want to miss it.  You definitely want to be caught up to speed here people.  Variant is one of those books that I put down and was sad because I wanted more.  I wasn’t ready for it to be over.  Then I had my mom read it, and my husband, and my co-workers, and my teens.  9 out of 10 people agree with me, Variant is an amazing read and they can’t wait to read what happens next.  That 1 out of 10, they are just plain wrong.  Actually, with that 1 out of 10 the consensus seems to be that they like the book, they just aren’t sure what to make of the twist.  And as far as twists go, you will never expect this one.  So go, go now and read Variant.

So here’s our take away for today:

Go read Variant because it is an awesome read and you’ll want to be caught up before the sequel comes out.

Visit Robison Wells webpage and share it with your teens because he is unflinchingly honest about some personal mental health issues and teens need to hear that they are not alone and that they will be okay.  Be sure to tell him that he is a modern day superhero, both brave and strong.

Follow Robison Wells on Twitter (@robisonwells) so he can taunt us all about ARCs for Feedback.

PS – Robison Wells gets millions of bonus points from this X-files fan because the cover of Variant says “Trust No One”.  Sadly my Trust No One poster was ruined last year when our town, and thus my house, flooded, but I still have the memories and looking at this cover makes me warm and fuzzy inside.  And it makes sense in the context of the story.

Are you a fan of Variant, or do you agree with the 1 out of 10? Leave a comment and let me know what you think and why you can’t wait for Feedback.

This post obviously owes thanks to HarperTeen, Robison Wells, VOYA Magazine and children’s author Laura Numeroff.


  1. Wow – so many cool things in this post! Your starred review! Wells' openness and honesty! Feedback is coming out in 7ish months! As far as 1 out of 10… I didn't NOT like Variant, but this twist just completely threw me! My mind was boggled for the rest of the book. So I'd better read Feedback and get this figured out!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. It *is* a completely mind boggling twist, without a doubt. I am anxious to see where he is going with it. When Feedback comes out we'll have to meet back here and discuss.

    Previous comment deleted because it had a glaring and annoying typo.

  4. Did Rob pay you to do this? Kidding.

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