by Robison Wells

HarperTeen, $17.99, 378 pages

A school without teachers, where kids make the rules? After being shuffled through foster care in Pittsburgh, Maxfield Academy is a dream for sixteen-year-old Benson Fisher. That is, until he notices the wall with razor barbed-wire surrounding his new school.

Variant is the first of Robinson Wells’s two-book dystopian story. As soon as Ben sets foot inside Maxfield, he learns he can have no communication with the outside world, must wear a tracking device, and may be punished with death if he attempts to escape. His new school is run by violent gangs, but the food is great, class is cancelled for paintball games, and Jane is gorgeous. If he just plays by the rules, maybe everything will work out.

After a violent encounter at a school dance, however, Ben is certain of only two things: he cannot trust anyone, and if he doesn’t escape, he will die.

Full of action, suspense, and horrific discoveries, Variant is sure to be a hit with even reluctant readers. If you enjoyed the Hunger Games and Lockdown series, I recommend this book to you, and predict that it will be a top-selling young-adult novel in 2012.

Emily Davis