Summary 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.
In my experience, Second Book Syndrome is a serious entity in the reading world. Sequels are rarely as good as what came before; I don’t know why, but it’s true. Feedback by Robison Wells is one of the few books in my experience that outdistanced its prequel. I was a bit tentative about starting this one, but Robison Wells really brought it all together for me here.
One of my biggest complaints with the first book in this series, Variant, was how suspiciously similar to Veronica Roth’s Divergent it was. Both novels were released within a few weeks of each other, back in 2011, and it was just a weird reading experience for me. I did like Variant more than Divergent, but it’s not fun to be constantly reminded of another storyline while you’re reading.
Thankfully, any hint of similarity to Veronica Roth was lost in Feedback, and it was wonderful to see the plot stand up on its own, away from dangerous comparisons.
Feedback gave me the opportunity to really appreciate Benson Fisher as a character. Upon close examination, I’m pretty ecstatic by how well-rounded he is. Benson is selfish and single-minded. His biggest goal is self-preservation, and given the circumstances, I can’t say that I’d want him to be anything else. It’s a very realistic portrayal. Yet over time, he attempts to prove that he isn’t some self-important jerk, that he cares for people besides himself. From the beginning of the book to the end, I saw definite growth and development in Benson, and the Benson we know at the end of Feedback is really not the same person we were introduced to on the first page of Variant. That, for me, is always the most important part of a book for me, whether or not a character has learned anything over the course of a novel. Feedback really nailed that for me.
In general, Robison Wells really outdid himself with characterization and realistic personalities in this book. Everyone is portrayed in shades of gray—there really is no human villain (but plenty of robot villains). Feedback is about a bunch of kids stuck in an impossible place, trying to make the best out of what’s happening, trying to live their lives as best they can.
Fabulous characterization aside, I was also pleased with the dystopian elements in Feedback. Coming from someone who doesn’t like the dystopian genre all that well, that’s saying something. Other readers might have been disappointed by the non-answers and vague conclusions that this book reached, but I was satisfied. A few very small pieces of information were revealed, but I didn’t feel like Robison Wells was playing around with his readers, being coy on purpose. It’s just that Benson doesn’t know what’s going on, so neither do I. For me, it made sense.
Wells’s prose is also very strong and well-defined, I found. Benson’s narrative is clear and makes sense. Yet, at the same time, I did have some trouble. It was like my eyes couldn’t stick to the page, so they’d wander around a bit, and I’d miss a couple of details here and there that, ultimately, were important for me to know. I’m not sure what caused that, though—could have been my fault.
Altogether, I was totally impressed with Feedback. With this book, Robison Wells, has become one of my favorite dystopian authors, and probably one of my favorite YA authors all around. Coming from me, that’s saying something. I totally loved Feedback, and I think it’s a wonderful contribution to the genre.