A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vortex is the second book in S.J. Kincaid's Insignia trilogy about teens recruited by a powerful coalition government to fight in World War III battles; they all have computer implants in their brains making them super smart -- and super valuable. Tom and his friends are often in peril. In simulation video games, they often die in terrible ways (including being eaten by sharks, beaten by cavemen, etc.). In real life, a teen girl is murdered when she is sucked down a tunnel and Tom almost freezes to death when he is intentionally locked out of a building in Antarctica. And that's just the, um, tip of the iceberg. There's also some smooching between teen lovebirds, as well as rather benign references to "boobs" and a nude swimming pool. There is an anti-corporate message throughout, as Tom grows increasingly successful in shutting down the conglomerates that run the world. Teens will be encouraged to think about the best way to fight for justice, technology's impact on privacy, and more.
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What's the story?
Tom's still a soldier in training to be an Intrasolar Combatant in World War III, dealing with a computer in his brain that gives him a photographic memory and secret, special power: The ability to enter and interact with any computer system. He's also dealing with conflicted feelings: He wants to have a secure future as a sponsored combatant, but he loathes the inhumane corporations that provide sponsorship -- and run the world. When Tom refuses to pass on a computer virus to Medusa, a talented combatant on the other side who shares his amazing ability, he faces consequences that may kill him -- and help him decide what side he's truly on.
Is it any good?
There's a lot to track, but if readers take their time, they will find the world S.J. Kincaid has created here very complete and the characters convincingly complicated. Readers who haven't read the first book in the series, Insignia -- or even those who haven't done a recent refresher -- may have a hard time remembering all the important plot points from the first book when reading VORTEX.
The other thing that's hard? This book is looonnng. There are tons of details about the various video game simulations, the futuristic world that Tom lives in -- and lots of intrigue as Tom tries to figure out how to protect himself, his friends, and the world. Tom is both impulsive and reckless, as well as innovative and brave. Readers won't be able to predict what he's going to do -- or even what he should do in many situations. This makes the book feel real and suspenseful.
Most important, as with all good dystopia, readers will be able to see pieces of our current society in Vortex -- such as our increasing dependence on technology like drones -- and they'll be encouraged to think about some pretty tough issues.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the best way to fight injustice. Is it more effective to make change by shouting against the system -- or working from within it?
What do you think will happen in the final book in the Insignia trilogy? Do you plan to read it? Why do you think there are so many young adult stories are told in series rather than stand-alone books?
What do you think about the future predicted in Vortex, with ever-present drones, retina scans, and robotic security guards? Are today's technological advances making us less free?
- Author: S.J. Kincaid
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: July 2, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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