Review: Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Title: Insignia

Author: S.J. Kincaid

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: July 10th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Guy Appeal

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): 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.

If you’re looking for a book that will appeal to guy readers, make sure you hand them Insignia by S.J. Kincaid.  This debut has everything a book needs for guy appeal: humor, action, gaming, and more.  Even better?  Considering this type of book isn’t always my first choice, and knowing how much I enjoyed it, I’m positive girls will like Insignia as well.

Tom Raines’ character is written well and is perfect for this book.  At the beginning of Insignia, we find out that he’s conniving and quite the talented gamer.  We also find out that his dad is a short-on-his-luck gambler who isn’t really taking care of Tom the way a father should.  With Tom being left to his own devices, he doesn’t take school very seriously even though it’s obvious that he’s smart.  I think it’s safe to say that if Tom were a real teenager in my class, I’d really like him despite the front he puts up.  He’s full of wit and quick humor and easy to like.  He’s perfect for this book because he’s not over confident, nor is he too down on himself.  He knows he’s talented, but I don’t think readers will find it annoying; I think they’ll connect with him and look up to him, especially if they’re gamers as well.

I’m not a gamer, but I have to admit that the world S.J. Kincaid created is pretty cool.  How cool would it be to interact in a virtual reality?!  Being a superior war machine really isn’t my idea of a good time (pressure much?), but I sure like reading about them!  Kincaid did such a fantastic job creating the setting and the world Tom lives in, it felt like it could be real even though Insignia takes place in the future.  Setting and world building is one of the most important features in science fiction and dystopians because so much relies on these two features.  If they aren’t written well and with detail, then how am I supposed to buy in to the story, especially when sci-fi and dystopias are supposed to be believable?

I was fortunate enough to read Insignia back in November, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release since then.  It’s a page-turning debut that I couldn’t put down, so I’m looking forward to discussing it with other readers.  The release of Insignia is especially exciting because I’m using it in my YA Lit II class this upcoming school year.  I let a few of my students read my copy early to get a feel from them, and was happy to hear rave reviews.  S.J. Kincaid is an exciting new talent in the world of YA, and I can’t wait to read the next book!

More Insignia Reviews:

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Heise Reads & Recommends


  1. Wow, the more I see about this the more I can’t wait to read it!

  2. cariblogs says:

    I plan to pick this up Thursday when SJ Kincaid come to town. I have heard nothing but great things about it. Great review!


  1. […] because I know exactly which guys and which types of guys will enjoy Tom Raines and this book. (I reviewed this as […]

  2. […] about me and my blog, then you know that finding books with guy appeal is really important to me.  Insignia impressed me and entertained me as a book with awesome guy appeal and as a fantastic debut.  It wins over the […]

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