Action is a requirement of a well-paced adventure. It draws the reader in, boldly tying itself to plot and character, driving the story. Good action flows, camouflaging weaknesses, and suspending disbelief in a way that makes you want to sneak that book into your desk to read during work or class, because it’s impossible to put down. You’re turning pages so quickly you’re not quite sure you caught everything, but you’ll be back to catch it the next time around, and the second time it’s faster, and more nerve-splitting than the first.
That kind of action is found in Breaking Sky.
It’s 2048, and the world has splintered; Ri Xiong Di, a controlling faction representing Europe and Asia, has gained military superiority over North America, mandating minimal communication between unallied countries. Everyone is kept in line by the Red Drones: Unmanned killing machines programmed to shoot opposition pilots, destroying any chance of staging a coup.
North America has not given up. In fact, they’ve rebelled, creating an experimental jet that flies faster than the speed of sound. It’s their hope these new “Streakers” will be able to outmaneuver the drones, and give them a fighting chance. There’s only one problem: Adults can’t fly them. Their bodies cannot withstand the pressure of mach level velocity. Only one age group can fly these planes, and after working hard to qualify they are selected for training and extreme conditioning.
The story orbits around Chase, one of the Academy’s two Streaker pilot’s. Raised by a loveless mother, Chase’s infrequent contact with her father has left a hole in her life. She tries to fill it with work, training, and pseudo relationships; anything that might distract her from facing the real problem: Her low self-esteem and need for acceptance. To survive the pressure, she isolates herself, projecting a tough image, although her inner dialogue betrays the outer shell. The relationships that she does allow herself to have –such as the one with her Radar Operator, and best friend Henry– are not as solid as they seem, and then extreme pressure forces an epiphany. The evolution of her perspective throughout the story is engaging, and believable.
Cori McCarthy’s writing captures the essence of teen angst, set in a world where the stakes are always life or death. Moments of pleasure are underpinned by fear, and trauma is a regular occurrence, normalized in a way that draws sympathy from the reader. The dialogue is quick, self-deprecating, sarcastic and at times funny. McCarthy has a talent for building tension, and her use of pilot terminology allows the reader to experience a free fall, mach speeds, and wild maneuvers that make the book difficult to walk away from, despite that looming deadline, or the clock that tells you you should have been in bed 3 hours ago.
Action, adventure, self-discovery, and a smattering of romance: Breaking Sky has it all.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received and Advance Reading Copy of Breaking Sky in return for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.