Wells introduces Benson Fisher, a teen in search of a “real” life instead of a long series of unwanted foster homes—but instead of the utopia he’s searching for, he finds the direct opposite.
Benson thinks he’s found the perfect school in Maxfield Academy, a private school in the wilds of New Mexico. Winning a scholarship with unexpected ease, he looks forward to establishing real friendships and getting a good education at last. What he finds, however, is far from normal. Within minutes of the front doors closing—and locking—behind him, he finds himself in a fight for his life. He joins a gang, the Variants, just to survive. With no adults on campus, classes are taught by fellow students, punishments are passed on by computer and nothing seems to follow a logical path. Benson decides it’s time to make a run for it, until he finds out that no one makes it out of Maxfield…not alive, at any rate. Benson's account unfolds in a speedy, unadorned first person, doling information out to readers as he learns it himself.