Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Breaking Sky

Breaking Sky

Cori McCarthy
For ages 13 and up
Sourcebooks, 2015   ISBN: 978-1492601418

Twenty-six years ago, in 2022, America’s leadership role in the world ended. An Asian group calling itself Ri Xiong Di became the one superpower, using missile-armed drones to keep its enemies cowed. No one had a drone or a plane that could match the red drones for speed or maneuverability. To make matters worse the Ri Xiong Di were able to hack into any computer system, communications station or satellite and even the U.S. military network, so nothing is safe. America has been cut off from any allies or trade partners since that time and as a result suffering is rife throughout the country. This Second Cold War is bad enough, but what everyone fears is that one day a full out war will break out and then there will be no turning back.

   Not long ago, Congress enacted the Youth Services Charter and military academies full of teenagers were created. The Air Force began secretly working on manned aircraft that they hope will be able to finally defeat the red drones, which is how Streakers came into being. These jets are so fast that only pilots who are incredibly fit and have fast reflexes can fly them, and the only people who have these qualities are teenagers.

   Chase is one of the pilots who was chosen to test out one of these Streakers. Together with her  navigator, whose call sigh is Pippin, she is based on Banks Island at the United Star Academy where teens work together with the hope that one day they will be able to do their part to bring the Second Cold War to an end. The main goal for now is to make sure that they pass the Streaker trials so that Congress will be willing to pay for more of the planes to be built. Chase and her class mates are going to have to prove that the planes have the ability to outfly and outfight the red drones.

   One day Chase and Pippin are out flying when they see another Streaker. There are only two Streakers at the Star, Chase’s Dragon and Pegasus, and this one is not Pegasus. The name on its side reads Phoenix. The pilot is fast, really fast and Chase does not know what to think. Is this some a Ri Xiong Di trick or is this plane a friendly?

   Back at base everyone discounts Chase’s story, so she decides to bring the mystery jet to her. She pretends to crash, and sure enough Phoenix arrives on the scene to help. When the pilot realizes that he has flown into a trap, he takes off and Chase chases him ending up at a secret base in Canada. The pilot she pursued calls himself Arrow and soon after they arrive at the base Chase gets a message. She is to go home right now and she faces possible expulsion from the academy.

   Chase just happens to be the fastest pilot at the academy so she is given a break, though she is also disciplined. Then one night there is an emergency. The Canadian base is under attack and Chase’s superior wants her to get there as quickly as possible. She might be able to help. Chase flies as fast as she can without blacking out, and when she gets to the base she sees that people are trapped inside the hanger. Defying her orders not to land, Chase puts Dragon on the ground and then uses the plane to break open the hanger so that the people inside, and Phoenix, can get out.

   Everyone is worried that Ri Xiong Di will attack the Star next, but all seems quiet. Arrow and his navigator, Romeo, come to live and work at the Star, and it is hoped that the three Streakers and their crews will be able to prove that they offer America hope for the future, but there is still no guarantee that they will be able to survive a red drone attack. No plane has managed to do this so far.

   This high octane novel catapults readers into a future that is grim and full of unknowns. The story of the cadets and their goals are balanced with fascinating insights into the inner lives of Chase, Pippin and the other cadets on whom so much depends. Chase is so emotionally damaged that she refuses to allow herself to really connect with anyone, protecting a secret that she fears will be her undoing if word gets out. Pippin is torn apart by his own secrets, though he tries to help Chase until she pushes him away. As the political situation around the cadets gets more and more dangerous, the emotional problems between them also escalate, adding tension that is fascinating and insightful.