Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Summary: Tom spent his entire childhood moving from hotel room to hotel room with his dad, a casino addict. The only thing that Tom is good at is playing virtual reality games, and hustling unsuspecting players out of a few hundred bucks. But for some reason, he registers on the radar of a military general who wants Tom to fight alongside a group of teenagers against the Russo-Chinese alliance in World War Three. You see, wars these days aren’t fought in real life: machines in space are operated by combatants, making sure that no one actually gets hurt. But what Tom doesn’t know is that becoming a military asset comes with a price.
My thoughts: Insignia is a fun mix of dystopia, science fiction, and cyberpunk that will delight all readers, no matter their age or gender. It isn’t so complex that a middle grade reader wouldn’t be able to understand it, yet more mature readers will take away Insignia’s subtle messages. Insignia is about greed, power, war, and violence, but it’s also about friendship, and those bits are the best parts. S.J. Kincaid has a solid grasp on how friendships are formed—mostly through circumstance—and the way they grow. Insignia is very much about growth, in fact, and it’s done in this fantastic manner—the kind where you don’t notice a character has become a better version of himself, until all of a sudden you do, and it’s heartwarming.
Before reading, I was expecting a more fast-paced, action-y story. Insignia has many edge-of-your-seat moments, but it doesn’t feel like a quick book at all. It takes place over the course of half a year, and it feels that way. There are no time jumps, and you feel as if you’ve been with the characters for ages by the time the book ends. Because the characters are stellar, this is actually a good thing. Tom, while far from perfect, is a kid who you just can’t help but root for (and at the same time, you can’t help but worry yourself over him, because he’s such a boy and he gets into all sorts of messes). My favorite, though, is Wyatt, a socially awkward girl who is far more intelligent than Tom or any other member of their group. Her awkwardness is adorable, but the best part about Wyatt is the fact that she constantly beats people at their own game and yet never lets her skill go to her head. The quiet moments when she opens up to people are wonderful, too.
So, people of the world, here are the reasons you must pick up Insignia:
The setting is creative and truly interesting to read about.
The characters are fantastic and lovable (I want to hug them all).
The themes will get you thinking.
The book will knock your socks right off.
Boom. Sold yet?
For those who like: sci-fi, boy narrators