Feedback by Robison Wells; HarperTeen, 2012.
Benson and Becky have successfully escaped from Maxfield Academy, but Becky is deathly ill. They are wandering in the woods and come upon the real Jane, who leads them to a town in the middle of nowhere. Benson discovers that the residents of the town are all the kids who were in Maxfield! Not only that, but they are part of a top-secret experiment that Maxfield is trying to hide from the public! The town is run by Birdman and people he trusts, who live in a century-old fort. Other kids live in barracks nearby. There are only two rules for the town’s residents—stay out of trouble and live their lives. Unfortunately, all the kids are prisoners in the town—they can never leave!
Surprise raids are frequently made on the town by Iceman and Ms. Vaughn. Benson and Becky are being hunted by them, and the kids who help them are in grave danger. Benson comes up with a plan to help both the kids in the town and the students at the academy, but can he stay alive long enough to see it through?
Feedback picks up right where Variant left off. Sixteen people died when Benson and Becky escaped, and Benson feels responsible for their deaths. The emotion that Benson feels as the result of these deaths at times clouds his judgment. Students from Maxfield play a prominent part in the second book. Although no gang loyalties are present at the fort or the barracks, I went back and made a list of all the characters from Variant and to which gangs they belonged. Readers may want to go back and reread Variant before starting Feedback. It would help with the transition between the two books.
One of the things I really like about this book is that while I was learning about the town, I was also able to learn a lot about the Maxfield’s history, as well as what happens to the kids who are sent to detention. Readers will also learn more about some of the students, like Jane and Laura, as well as others.
The main part of the story centers around Benson, Becky, and other students trying to escape from the town and expose what is going on at Maxfield. Since they have no way of knowing how far they are from other people, this is a daunting task!
Feedback does answer many questions that were raised in Variant, and there are many twists, turns, and surprises! While Feedback was good and I did enjoy it, I do not feel it reached the “hold-your-breath” excitement that Variant achieved! It will be released on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. I recommend Feedback for middle school, high school, and public libraries.
**Reviewer’s note: The copy reviewed was an ARC received at the 2012 Texas Library Association Conference in exchange for an honest review.