Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life. He was wrong. Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive. Where breaking the rules equals death. But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape - his only real hope for survival - may be impossible.
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I have to admit I didn't see the twist coming. Yeah, maybe it was a little silly but it was interesting enough to make me want know more.
That is why I am *really* annoyed with the cliff-hanger ending. It is such a cheap crutch for writers to use that on principle I usually give the book very low marks for it and don't bother with the rest of a series, knowing I'll get more of the same.
However, I might give the next book a go when it comes out because I am genuinely curious!
I will say that this YA novel kept me entertained during a long drive. The setup is intriguing enough: a teenage orphan from Pittsburgh named Benson looks to escape his dreary life by winning a scholarship to a high-end private school in New Mexico. However, upon arrival, he finds that Maxfield Academy contains no adults, is full of security cameras, is surrounded by a high wall, and has a few simple rules that students must never, ever break. Cue shades of Lord of the Flies, Never Let Me Go, and the TV show Lost, as our protagonist learns that the students have organized themselves into different factions, some bent on following the rules, some out to cause mayhem, and some with more pragmatic ideas. The truce that exists between them is tense at best, and Benson must choose his allies and adversaries carefully. Not everything at Maxfield, of course, is what is seems, and, like Lost, it had me hooked.
Well, for the first half. Unfortunately, the twist that comes later would have been inexcusably silly in a grown-up novel. Then again, this is a book for younger readers, and I doubt too many will be concerned about that, or even recognize the creative property that Wells is, um, inspired by. The target audience will probably eat up the who-can-we-trust suspense, the action sequences (including paintball, of all things), the likable, outcast hero, and the romance.
All in all, probably not the most interesting or well-written YA dystopfic out there, but a perfectly readable entry for those who can’t get enough of the genre. Parental note: there’s some PG violence, one implied-but-not-discussed sexual encounter between secondary characters, and no bad language.