Review: Feedback (Variant #2) by Robison Wells

Feedback (Variant #2)
By Robison Wells
356 Pages
Published by HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

From Goodreads:

Benson Fisher escaped from Maxfield Academy’s deadly rules and brutal gangs.

Or so he thought.

But now Benson is trapped in a different kind of prison: a town filled with hauntingly familiar faces. People from Maxfield he saw die. Friends he was afraid he had killed.

They are all pawns in the school’s twisted experiment, held captive and controlled by an unseen force. As he searches for answers, Benson discovers that Maxfield Academy’s plans are more sinister than anything he imagined—and they may be impossible to stop.

Variant blew readers away with its breakneck pacing, flawless plotting, and impossibly high stakes. It earned starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and VOYA, which described it as “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.”

In Feedback, Robison Wells delivers all the answers you’ve been craving—with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing until the very last page.
**Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Variant**

So I really, really liked Robison Wells’ Variant (read my review here).  When I saw that the sequel, Feedback, was available via ARC tour I jumped all over it like my chubby dog on a snausage.

Feedback jumps riiiight in where Variant left off. Literally. Without going back and re-reading, I’m pretty sure that it picks up in the middle of the same conversation where the last book ended. It’s like someone took a big, thick book and split it into two books, it goes from one to the other that seamlessly. I was a little concerned initially because while I remember the major stuff about the first book, I wasn’t sure about some of the details. Fortunately Wells does a good job of working little reminders in about who is who, what happened, etc. And he manages to do it pretty seamlessly. I did still have some confusion about characters but only because there are a TON of them.  If you have the opportunity to go back and re-read or skim the last few chapters of Variant it couldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary.

I felt like there was slightly less mystery in this book than in the last, but the stakes seemed higher. Benson and company have already figured out that something isn’t right about the school and that some of the kids are androids, and now it’s more a matter of figuring out just what in the hell is going on. What happened to the kids who were sent to detention and were never heard from again? What about the ones who escaped and were presumed dead? What is the deal with Maxfield Academy, and maybe more importantly, who is pulling the strings?

I liked that the characters spent a bit of time trying to figure out WHY these things were happening. Why bring these kids to a school and surround them with androids? Where are they getting the money to run this program? Why has nobody caught on that these kids are missing? Why does nobody ever just randomly happen upon the school? These are questions that the reader will most likely be asking, and when the characters in the book started discussing them it filled me with hope that they’d actually be addressed at some point. And joy of joys, they were! I’m always kinda fist-pumpy when characters actually question why these weird things are happening and why these odd situations are able to be sustained without anyone ever interfering. I’m all for suspension of disbelief in some cases, but there’s something to be said for realism and/or actually getting answers as well.

I also thought it was interesting (and rare) to have a love triangle that is one guy with two women as opposed to the usual “two impossibly gorgeous guys are after the same doe-eyed girl with no idea how beautiful she truly is”. Actually, love triangle is kind of a strong term for what goes on here. The actual romance in the book is minimal, though it does inform some of Benson’s choices.  Now that I think of it, not much time whatsoever is spent on the characters’ appearances. I love this. I’m sure there were probably minor descriptions of everyone in the first book  but even Benson doesn’t get so much as a passing description. Some people may have issues with that and feel like it makes it harder to imagine the characters but I liked it quite a bit. Appearances are irrelevant here, both in this book and in the series overall.

I still have some teeny-tiny issues with Benson being from Pittsburgh (like as in, the book kinda makes it sound like the streets of Pittsburgh are dangerous and full of roving street gangs and trash can fires and that’s not realistic at all) but that will probably only be an issue to people who are from or familiar with the city, and it may just be me being oversensitive. I get that the author may be taking some liberties to detail Benson’s past.

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series or not? It certainly ended well and tied up most of the loose ends, but it did leave the door open for a future book as well.

4/5 Stars


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