ARC Review: “Insignia” by SJ Kincaid

Insignia (Insignia #1) by SJ Kincaid

Goodreads | Amazon

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.

4 1/2 stars

This ARC was received via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Thank you Goodreads and Katherine Tegen Books! You can get a copy of your own on July 10, 2012.

You know those books that you never want to end because you’re having so much fun?

This is one of those books.

In all honesty, when I won this off Goodreads I wasn’t sure what to think. I certainly wasn’t dying to read this book by any means, but I figured it would be a neat present to give my brother. However, because I’m a good girl and I totally enjoy the opportunity First Reads gives people, I knew that I HAD to at least try to read and review it.

I am SO GLAD I did.

I don’t usually read books with 14-year-old male main characters. Usually I find them annoying as the species themselves. 😉 However, Kincaid brings Tom to life with fantastic ability. I feel his adolescent pain and really get to know how he ticks. Whereas sometimes I feel YA/middle grade books can present caricatures of adolescent life, Kincaid brought forward a REAL fourteen year old boy.

And it wasn’t just Tom, either. All his friends, from his best friend Vik to loner girl genius Wyatt were just fantastic. All the dialogue, the reactions and the jokes were spot on for the age range and wonderfully written. Plus, the humor wasn’t tired or cliché. I literally doubled over laughing in places, remembering the ridiculous jokes that I had as a kid. I want to throw around more adjectives, but I’ll bottom line with: characters in Insignia = perfect.

I was also impressed with Kincaid’s world building. There was a LOT going on, and you can tell that every facet is thought out. I could almost picture the new world map. The new governmental structure, the whole fight–it’s a wild concept, but it all had concrete “facts” to make sense of it. Yes, in places it felt a little bit like an info dump, but Kincaid usually managed to dole out the finite details in manageable doses. I could not find one hole in the extensive explanation.

I also really loved how the plot kept moving. There was plenty of action and suspense, all written excellently. This was also one of the few books were I looked forward to the slow downs, too, because Tom and his friends were just so fantastic when they were simply hanging out. I mean, a whole chapter where they run around trying to put virus in each other’s heads and Wyatt ends up making them all impersonate sheep? Pretty irrelevant to the larger plot, but MAN that was FANTASTIC.

To be sure, there were a few things that I found a little farfetched, such as Tom’s friendship/courtship of a certain enemy who shall remain nameless to avert spoilers. It just didn’t make sense as a thing that would legitimately happen. Also, while I enjoyed the range of bad guys and the fact that there was really no black and white where they were concerned, I felt that we weren’t given enough time with the “bad guy” at the end, or even proof of something that would make him act the way he did. I also had to wonder why a few characters, such as Heather, were even there.

All in all, I really enjoyed Insignia the whole way through. It was one of those books where I just sat back and allowed myself to enjoy the ride. I am still certainly going to let my brother read it, but now he HAS to give it back. This is one that I’ll enjoy rereading when I need a laugh and some excitement.


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