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Plug Me Into This!

Jenny reviews S. J. Kincaid's Insignia and it's so awesome, she's almost ready to try gaming.

Plug Me Into This!

BOOK REPORT for Insignia (Insignia Book 1) by S. J. Kincaid

Cover Story: Wicked Cool
BFF Charm: Eventually 
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit  
Bonus Factors: Boarding School, Pranks, World Building
Anti-Bonus Factors: The Man   
Relationship Status: I'd Give This Book My Personal IP Address

Cover Story: Wicked Cool

This cover combines computer and sci-fi elements in a way that relates to the book and looks badass. Even the bird symbol ties in!

The Deal:

Tom Raines is a total loser. At least that's how he sees himself, because he hasn't even been able to attend school on account of the fact that he moves around with his gambling father from one casino to the next, never knowing if he'll have a bed to sleep in or food to eat. But there's one thing he's really good at: Computer Gaming.

So when a government official approaches Tom to offer him a spot at an elite military academy, where he would be turned into an extraordinary fighting machine, he jumps at the chance to become a member of the Intrasolar Forces -- despite his dad's warnings about "the corporate machine." But just what will Tom have to give up in order to BE something?

BFF Charm: Eventually

At 14, Tom made a lot of choices that made me want to bonk him on the head, like WHY don't you talk to the adults, Tom?!!!!! He's also pig-headed and a little bit -- okay, a lot -- ruthless. But while those things maybe made me uncertain if I'd want to be his best friend at first, they gave his character depth and a realism in an otherwise fantastical world. So maybe I didn't always approve of his decisions, but I still hurt right along with him when he had to deal with the consequences.

I'd also hand out charms to Wyatt, Vik and especially Yuri. I want you guys on my team during the next War Games, m'kay?

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

There is a fair amount of believable crushing that goes on, as well as developing relationships that are both sweet and painful in their authenticity. I imagine the author will expand on those in later installments.

Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit

When I first started reading this, I wasn't sure it was going to be my kind of book, because I am an old lady and therefore don't really play video games. But it was too late to send it to Megan to review, so I decided to give it a go. And I am really glad I did, because Kincaid manages to make really complicated programmer jargon interesting and exciting -- and through her tale turns gaming into a human experience that makes me want to sign up for World of Warcraft classes (They have those, yes? Full disclosure: I initially called it World of Warfare, but my husband caught it.). Anyway, rife with adventure and danger, forged friendships and betrayals, and the silliness and fart humor you can imagine you'd find hanging out with a group of 14 and 15-year olds, I think the author totally beats the high score (gaming lingo, see?) of the other dystopic thrillers of recent memory.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

So perhaps a military boarding school wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed of attending one as a young, but boarding school at the Pentagon? Where each division of kids is named after a famous military leader? And you have battle sims as your morning calesthenics? Um, even knowing what I know, I still might enlist.

Bonus Factor: Pranks

And what's more? Administration approved pranks?!!!!! No, seriously, as part of their training, students at the Pentagonal Spire are unleashed on each other in a marathon of war games-style pranking. Pranks have long been one of our favorite devices here at FYA, so you better believe, bruv, when I tell you how much I want to go there.

Bonus Factor: World Building

Kincaid's scarily feasible future folds so seamlessly into her story that this book -- though it is the first of a series -- didn't have that often seen abundance of exposition and set up. It's like she just… how do say in 14-year old boy language? Oh yes, she just farted, and her world came into existence.

Anti-Bonus Factor: The Man

In the future, it's not really about the country you live in, but the corporations who own/run/rule everything. So… kind of like nowish? The author paints a bleak picture of capitalism unchecked without venturing into the territory of making this an ISSUE book.

Casting Call:

Aaron Paul as Tom

So I know there's no way he could pass as a 14-year old, but this is FANTASY casting, right? Plus, I was totally having a Breaking Bad marathon when I started reading this, so I couldn't get Jesse Pinkman out of my head. I L U Jesse! Besides, Tom is a genius and an idiot, endearing and an ass, so it really is a good fit. Betch.

Relationship Status: I'd Give This Book My Personal IP Address

So this book and I have been meeting in public online gaming venues for a while now. We started out competing against each other -- racing cars, fighting zombie hordes, building sustainable cities -- but more and more lately we've just been talking. So I've decided I'm ready for the next step, and am going to meet it online from my HOME computer.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Katherine Tegan Books, a division of Harper Collins.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Insignia is available today!

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.