Feedback by Robison Wells is the sequel to the fantastic YA sci-fi thriller Variant, and as far as YA sequels go, this one is pretty good. This is far from a standalone book - you will need to have read Variant before starting this book - and I will have to spoil some events in the first book in order to properly review this book. So if you haven't read Variant, go do it now, it is a fantastic book. If you have read Variant, then read on and let this review help make it easier for you to decide whether to buy this book right now, or a few minutes from now.
***WARNING: THE FOLLOWING TEXT CONTAINS SPOILERS AND TRACES OF NUTS***
Okay, so now that I've put the spoiler tag up... Feedback continues the story of Benson, having just instigated a mass escape from that crazy 1984 Big Brother-esque social experiment high school and having just discovered that more than half the students are actually highly sophisticated androids. On the run with the severely injured rival gang-member Becky, Benson makes for the nearest village hoping to get some medical aid. What Benson finds is a village full of all those students that were sent to detention in the first book, and it dawns on him that this social experiment conspiracy is much further reaching and much more insidious than he originally thought.
So the first thing you will notice with Feedback is that Wells has immediately upped the ante, taking all of the established consequences from the first book and making them more severe to a wider range of people. Escape is no longer the main motive here, this story is all about survival and what it means to every single person. Some people are happy to fit in with the establishment, some people are tired of fighting, but some people refuse to be held captive and continue to fight despite the consequences. So Wells does what any sadistic author would do and puts all these different character types into a confined space and keeps prodding and prodding until they react. It makes for a fascinating read, and does a great job at both creating tension and building empathy.
While Feedback is very much a character study, this book is more about showing what it takes to reveal their true nature rather than growing them across a traditional arc. I love how Wells plays with the different aspects of character interplay in this story, and it certainly does a lot to make you think. But... I just wasn't a big fan of Benson in this book. He continued to be selfish, he continued to make the same mistakes, and he just came across as having a very abrasive personality. On the plus side, it made me question whether Benson was human or android the whole way through, which is a very clever thing to do in a book where all the characters are paranoid about whether or not you are who you say you are. I just couldn't come to care for Benson or his plight, and I didn't like the way in which he continued to do things that would jeopardise the survival of so many other people.
Okay so that last paragraph seems like a bit of a downer but I really did enjoy this book and I think it is something you should definitely give a try. The dystopian world Wells has created is one I want to spend more time in, especially given the massive tease we were left with right at the end. The story, the tension, and the character case studies should be reason enough for you to go pick this up and start reading now.