Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Date Published: July 10, 2012 (my birthday it's a sign)
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
I've heard good things about this book for a while, and when I saw it at the library I snatched it up. Let me tell you, I am glad I did. Insignia is the story of a 14-year-old boy written by a woman. I found it really interesting that she went by her initials on the cover, so I could immediately tell whether the book was written by a man or a woman. I didn't check to see the author's gender until after I read the book, so as to prevent any kind of judgement I might have had going into it (which I shouldn't have had, but I know I have some opinions that aren't really mine, they're just there). I had just read Frankenstein, the story of a man written by a teenage girl, and Victor Frankenstein has a lot of feminine characteristics that bothered me throughout the book, just because I felt like it could have really made a point had Frankenstein been a girl.
I'm worried someone will think I'm attacking women who write, and that's not it at all. The only books series I own written by a man is Percy Jackson, and I have an overflowing bookshelf. The only reason I'm even bringing up the feminine characteristics is that they're very different in Tom from other male protagonists I've read. And I really like that. I don't like him because he isn't feminine, I like him because he's different. I couldn't help but compare him to Ender Wiggin and Percy Jackson because of his age, and he's very similar to those two in his mind state, but Ender and Percy were written by men. I just wanted to give S.J. Kincaid props for writing differently than most female authors. I give Tahereh Mafi just as many props for writing differently, too. And Michelle Hodkin, etc. Basically, anyone I see as unique in their writing, I will point that out and say I really appreciate that. And, no, of course no author writes the same as any other, but I really notice when someone does something really out of the box, and that was how I saw Insignia: something different.
ANYWAYS, going into Insignia I was predisposed to think women write girly-men (not bad, but unrealistic sometimes from my point of view). I have nothing against guys who are in touch with their feminine side (I have a lot of friends on that end of the spectrum, straight and not). I had just been missing guy protagonists who weren't into their emotions in today's YA lit. It's cool if an author makes a man who is totally in touch with his emotions etc. but it's also cool if he isn't. I really appreciated Tom for being different. If you've been around here for any length of time, then you might know that I really like a unique character. And, let me tell you, Tom is incredibly written. He is such a teenage boy (not in the gross way, though). He's so funny and quirky and insecure about himself, but not like I am. More like he feels too scrawny and short and unmanly in appearance. He actually reminds me a lot of Percy Jackson in his behavior and his disrespect of authority (he challenges everyone, like how Percy had a habit of challenging the god of war). Although, unlike Percy, Tom thinks about boobs a lot. There's a couple points where he thinks things to his friends and accidentally throws the word "boobs" in. It's actually really funny, and not like sexist or anything. I love Tom, if we're gonna be real here. In a different way than I love Noah Shaw, of course, but I love his character and I love reading about his stupidity and stubbornness and his crazy adventures. He is honestly one of the funniest characters I have had the pleasure of reading about. I love funny books.
His friends are pure GOLD, too. Vik and Wyatt and Yuri really made the book for me. Vik is such a goober, and I love him. Vik is short for Vikram, and he's Tom's first friend at the Spire. They're roommates and he intruces Tom to Wyatt and Yuri. (I've read the second book already, so look out for my next review for more Vik as I love Vortex Vik a lot). Wyatt (a female) has zero social skills, and she's so freaking funny. She says whatever she thinks, because she has no filter, and doesn't even realize she's rude. I have a mega girl crush on Wyatt. I would totally be friends with her, she's such a darling. And then there's Yuri, who is the nicest Russian in YA lit. He's so cute and sweet. He's the first of them to want to be friends with Wyatt, despite her crappy people skills. His English is really good, but he doesn't use contractions, and he's fun to read with a Russian accent if you're feeling it. Vik calls him "the android" because he's so nice and perfect.
Insignia has like 4 different plots, I guess. It's like one crazy thing after another for Tom. He gets himself in a lot of trouble with his inability to respect authority, and that's always fun. There's a section of the book that gave me major anxiety (you'll know what I'm talking about when you get there). My only clue for you is: Dalton Prestwick. Ugh. I hate that man, and so does Tom, and so will you.
The really interesting thing about Insignia is the lack of a real defined villain. You'd think the Russo-Chinese would be the real enemy, but... it's interesting. I mean, yeah, there's a bad guy. But there isn't only one, and the lasting villain is like crazy complex. The whole war Tom is recruited for is really crazy. When I first started reading the book I saw a lot of parallels with Ender's Game, which makes me think the author was sort of inspired by it, but it's like a completely different plot line and a lot less serious than Ender's Game (a lot less depressing, too). Mainly the whole child warrior thing was what was really similar, but everything else was different.
So, if you're interested in sci-fi about a non-bloody WWIII, then read Insignia. If you're not interested, read it anyways.