S.J. Kincaid

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S.J. Kincaid What an interesting question!

My short answer: no. Tom's a great kid.

My long answer is very, very long. A wall of text for you:

First off, I think it…more
What an interesting question!

My short answer: no. Tom's a great kid.

My long answer is very, very long. A wall of text for you:

First off, I think it needs to be defined what makes a 'good' kid. If it means good intentions, then Tom has them the vast majority of the time. He really does mean well, and he really has a desire for fairness. He's not cruel, or malevolent, and he would never set out to harm anyone who didn't deserve it. He's also the rare person who'd probably step in and do something if he saw someone else doing something cruel to another person. He always -means- well even if his actions don't show that.

That said, Tom does have bad moments. Toward the end of Insignia, he does something cruel to Medusa. I would argue, though, that Tom’s action isn’t necessarily a sign he’s a bad guy. He’s desperate. If he loses, he loses everything. He loses the Pentagonal Spire, he goes back to the life he had before Insignia. That, or he faces being trapped by Blackburn again and another terrible set of choices-- betraying his friends, or being driven out of his mind. So Tom's cruelty to Medusa? It's something he is doing entirely out of blinding horror of the alternative. And he feels terrible for having done it.

Intentions aside...

If 'good kid' means someone who -does- the right thing, then there is more argument he isn't necessarily a good kid. This is a bit more ambiguous, mostly because Tom is very much a product of his upbringing, and he does some very bad things that he thinks are good ideas at the time based on his own judgment.

His childhood really makes him who he is. In traditional childhood, people learn boundaries. They learn what they are supposed to do, what they are not supposed to do. Parents, school, society-- all these things teach a child the rules they understand when they're navigating the world. Tom has a very skewed idea of boundaries and right and wrong just because he's never had a chance to learn those things.

It doesn’t help that Tom's society is corrupt one. It's a futuristic USA that lacks the basic social contract. In a functional country, people abide by laws and in exchange for playing by the rules, they are allowed to gain a tolerable quality of life, and they get the basics of subsistence. In Insignia, society is dominated by people who manipulate the rules that other people must obey (but said manipulators do not need to obey themselves), and the entire system rewards those who exploit others. There's an inherent unfairness to that society, so on that larger scale, Tom doesn't exist in a place where he'd learn a sense of fairness or fair play. Who respects the law if the law is not a means of ensuring fairness? And if that basic societal respect doesn’t exist, and if one also doesn’t have, say, religion to instill a framework of right and wrong, how can a kid grow up with a sense rules and guidelines are important?

Additionally, there's Tom's father as a factor. The person who raises a child is absolutely the biggest influence. Neil does one thing right, in that Tom knows his dad loves him absolutely, but outside of that, Neil is very lasseiz faire. He hasn’t instilled his son with a sense of structure, rules, authority because he himself is not an authority figure. He doesn't make sure Tom goes to bed at a certain time. He doesn't set up an expectation that he'll brush his teeth, or clean his room. He doesn't give Tom a sense there is some older person guiding him on the right path until he can find his way on his own. Tom doesn’t even have that fundamental relationship as an ethical guide, or the resulting sense of security that someone is looking out for him because Neil is not able to tend to his own well-being, much less his son's.

Tom's father (rightly) recognizes the unfairness of their civilization. He responds to that by totally rejecting it, skirting rules when possible, and (bravely yet also unwisely) making his contempt for it very open and well known, whether it's by jeering or by throwing a punch. Neil makes it impossible for Tom to really learn how a 'good kid' should act, and how he should not.

There are other ways Tom's childhood lacks consistency. Neil's job means they will have money one day, and they'll be wiped another. Neil's substance abuse issue means Tom may have a guy he can turn to at the beginning of a night, but not at the end. All of these things are factors that lead to instability.

Last big factor: school. Tom doesn't go to school regularly until he reaches the Pentagonal Spire. School is huge when it comes to teaching more than just what's in a textbook. At school, kids learn to follow rules. They learn social norms through interaction with other kids, and they absorb many of the expectations of one's world. That is a massive deficit in Tom's early life.

So to bring this to a point, is Tom a good kid?

Tom is a kid who has learned that there is absolutely no institution or authority that can be trusted or consulted or relied upon, and therefore he should rely entirely upon himself and his own judgment. Period. That’s the core of Tom. That’s also the core of the series because so many bad things would have been avoided if Tom had believed otherwise. Imagine if he’d responded to Dalton's actions in Insignia by telling Marsh or Blackburn, "Hey, adults, this guy attacked and brainwashed me. Do something.” Bam. Book one and then the entire series takes a different course.

That said, Tom does that absolute best he can with the foundation he has, and he means well. He learns over time as well. He gradually learns to trust his friends, and eventually learns to trust a couple authority figures who are older than he is. So no—I would say Tom is not a bad kid.
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Average rating: 4.15 · 38,649 ratings · 5,867 reviews · 10 distinct worksSimilar authors
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Insignia Vortex Catalyst
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What a fun, cute book. Although I think the magical world still needs some fleshing out (I trust that will happen in book two), I really loved the characters, and even the Kami/Jared relationship. It's very rare for me to appreciate romance in most Y ...more
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“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.'

'Well,' he says, 'I would only go if there was cake.”
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“Don't tell me about worth," Nita said. "My father commands fleets."

"The wealthy measure everything with the weight of their money." Tool leaned close. "Sadna once risked herself and the rest of her crew to help me escape from an oil fire... Your father commands fleets. And thousands of half-men, I am sure. But would he risk himself to save a single one?”
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The Monster Princess by D.J. MacHale
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I bought this for my niece. It has a sweet, positive message, and her parents tell me that every single night, she demands they read her 'Monster Princess' at bedtime. It's her favorite story ever!
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Modelland by Tyra Banks
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I've only read the first chapter. IMO, this promises to be the most terrifying dystopian of all.
More of S.J.'s books…
“He likes her."

"Yuri, no!" Vik said.

Yuri turned redder, confirming it.

"Yuri, come on, man," Tom cried.

Yuri gave a helpless shrug. "Divisions cannot divide human hearts."

"Oh God," Vik cried, clapping hands over his ears. "He's even spouting cheesy lines now. Make him stop, Tom!"

"I can't!" Tom told him. "My ears... They're bleeding. Bleeding!"

"It's a brain hemorrhage! He's murdered us!" Vik said.

"Murderer!" Tom cried, fake collapsing onto the ground.

Yuri shook his head. "This is not very mature.”
S.J. Kincaid, Insignia

“Come on, Beamer! I beheaded you for your own good.”
S.J. Kincaid, Insignia
tags: humor

“What's being crazy like?" Wyatt blurted.

"That depends, Enslow. What's being tactless and completely inappropriate like?”
S.J. Kincaid, Insignia

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“Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when it's morning again, they'll wash away
Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.”
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

“Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.
Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.”
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

“Finnick!" Something between a shriek and a cry of joy. A lovely if somewhat bedraggled young woman--dark tangled hair, sea green eyes--runs toward us in nothing but a sheet. "Finnick!" And suddenly, it's as if there's no one in the world but these two, crashing through space to reach each other. They collide, enfold, lose their balance, and slam against a wall, where they stay. Clinging into one being. Indivisible.
A pang of jealousy hits me. Not for either Finnick or Annie but for their certainty. No one seeing them could doubt their love.”
Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

“She's not here," I tell him. Buttercup hisses again. "She's not here. You can hiss all you like. You won't find Prim." At her name, he perks up. Raises his flattened ears. Begins to meow hopefully. "Get out!" He dodges the pillow I throw at him. "Go away! There's nothing left for you here!" I start to shake, furious with him. "She's not coming back! She's never ever coming back here again!" I grab another pillow and get to my feet to improve my aim. Out of nowhere, the tears begin to pour down my cheeks. "She's dead, you stupid cat. She's dead.”
Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

“Aunt Mercy put down her tiles, one at a time. I-T-C-H-I-N.
Aunt Grace leaned closer to the board, squinting. "Mercy Lynne, you're cheatin' again! What kinda word is that? Use it in a sentence."
"I'm itchin' ta have some a that white cake."
"That's not how you spell it." At least one of them could spell. Aunt Grace pulled one of the tiles off the board. "There's no T in itchin'." Or not.”
Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures

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