When I signed up with Netgalley (this great service that lets book reviewers and librarians read books ahead of time so that they can then promote them to readers like you), I spent a bit of time kicking around the site, checking out what else was on there. I was really excited to see Variant, a book by the brother of one of my good friends. (Also–in full disclosure–a guy I’ve played board games with on several occasions.) I downloaded the book and put it in my “to read” pile.
Of course, any time you pick up a book by a friend or acquaintance, you run a risk–a serious risk–of not liking the book. That’s why I generally don’t tell friends or acquaintances that I’ve read their book until after the fact. It’s just easier to not mention it at all if it turns out I thought their book stunk. I don’t shill books on my blog or to my friends. If I review something, then I stick by that review. There’s no nepotism at work here. (At the same time, of course, I’ve found that I tend to like books that are written by authors I’ve met and liked. I was always a fan of Garth Nix, for example, but once I met him and saw what a cool guy he is, I became an even bigger fan.)
Anyway. The mere fact that I’m publicly talking about Variant means one thing: I thought it was awesome.
Really, as I was reading it, I saw a whole lot of potential for blockbuster status of this book. It’s well paced, has great characters, is full of mystery and intrigue, and is just plain fun to read. The book that’s most like it that I can think of is Hunger Games, and I really don’t think I’m doing either book a disservice to compare them.
In Variants, the main character (Benson Fisher) finds himself at what he believes is a prestigious private high school. But when he gets there, he discovers he’s basically locked in to a place that’s much more Lord of the Flies than it is Dead Poets Society. There are no adults, and the kids have broken up into gangs to stay alive. Not only that, but there are some seriously sinister vibes coming off the place. Adults are in charge, but they’re never seen in person–only remotely from time to time.
I don’t want to give anything away, but you should read this book. Unfortunately, you have to wait until October to read it, but you can click that link and preorder it now. You won’t be sorry you did.