HOLY bleep! I am filled with so much lingering adrenalin and paranoia and angst!! This is probably the best YA Dystopian I've read all year. I’ve decided that my 5 star ratings from now on will mean that I couldn’t put the book down. I COULDN’T put VARIANT down, though I had to. A million times for the sake of being a responsible adult. Sigh. However, every spare moment I had was dedicated to reading this book. I’ll try to be as detailed as possible without giving anything away. VARIANT wastes no time in grabbing you as soon as you open its pages. Set against a contemporary background, you follow Benson, a 17 yr. old foster kid, who after applying and winning a scholarship to a private school miles away from his hometown of Pittsburg PA, tries to make a new life for himself, free from loneliness and the trials common to those in foster care. Only, Maxfield Academy is not all of what it’s cracked up to be, and it’s something we all realize almost immediately. From the very start of VARIANT you want Benson to rebel. You feel the sense of desperation and absurdity that is Maxfield Academy, and that of some of its current students. The pacing was spot on and it’s a story that does its job. It’s thrills, disturbs you, and makes you bite your nails at the edge of your seat. I like my dystopian books like VARIANT…where while reading you feel just as frustrated by the menacing circumstances as the characters, visceral with a shot of urgency, the goal is clear and forefront. It’s the kind where I had to literally put the book down sometimes because I was afraid of the impending revelation/plot development on the next page. And it made me ask myself countless times how I would handle the situation had I been in it, and thanked the baby Jesus I’d likely not have to experience such a thing. Because if there is one thing I’m not built to adapt to for any amount of time, it is to have my freedom taken away from me and to be made to heel when I try to rectify that infraction against my rights as a person. I’m all about the Just in life. I loved Benson, and found that he and most of the other main secondary characters had depth to them, though some more than others. Those who would appear to be cliché archetypes ended up surprising me. As for Benson, he was so human. I understood the conflicts he went through and his struggle with the decision to leave when faced with some circumstances that were not unlike what he’d wanted, making the bad almost tolerable. Here’s the question: Should I make the best of the situation or continue active rebellion?. The answer seems obvious, but in hindsight it’s not that simple a conviction. I can’t imagine being in the situation, Benson finds himself in with his peers. Knowing the free world is just beyond my reach and having to struggle to attain it. But he’s definitely a do'er. I LOVE DO'ERs! And he and I are very much a like from a mental and practical perspective. He was a strong character, logical, and non-irritating, without being a Gary Stu. I love the fact that while reading I didn’t experience not one seemingly contrived plot point and character action that so many other YA lit tend to encompass to make conflict/tension. Wells did a good job of making it all feel organic. It's nothing worse than characters that are supposed to be sensible/calculating doing dumb things for the sake of "conflict". Benson is not always successful in his efforts, but he tries and what he attempts is rational and his reactions very human. Oh, and the Twist and turns? Man, there are several that totally knocked me breathless from shock. Just when you think all is safe and you’ve figured it all out, BAM! Wells gets you again. However, it never seemed gratuitous. This was one HELL of a ride and mindf*ck!While reading, I couldn’t decided what was more menacing, Maxfield Academy giving students a false sense of security and hope because it does give them the opportunity to experience luxuries and live a “semi-normal” life, all things considered, or if it was cruel to offer such things, because no matter what, they couldn’t have what they truly desired, which was to leave. And it’s amazing what we do to cope as humans. The only place where I feel Variant falls short was the first romantic development Benson has with one of the girls at the school. Is that maybe a Male author shortcoming in YA lit? I don’t know. I haven’t read enough YA that have a romance component by male authors. Though I have to say the development between Benson and the young lady at the end, seems much more believable; maybe it’s because of the evolving groundwork Wells made with her and Benson’s relationship from the beginning. I am rooting for them them and perhaps wells will be able to satisfy my need for passion and “the swoons” for my romance plot lines in the future books to come. VARIANT is by Robison Wells’ and is the first installment of what I presume is a trilogy. Its publication date set for October 2011. It’s definitely worth picking up! Go NOW and pre-order.