Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

Cori McCarthy could kick your ass.

I'm not saying she will, but she probably could if she wanted to.  Because there's an anger in McCarthy's new novel BREAKING SKY that's hard to fake.  The novel's protagonist, Chase "Nyx" Harcourt, is a teen fighter pilot during the Second Cold War in the year 2048.  Nyx punches boys, disobeys military orders, and flies so recklessly and dangerously that you just know McCarthy has done the same in her lifetime.  Or has wanted to.  Either way, isn't that what you want from a novel--to find it so authentic that you feel you know the author somehow once it's finished?  That's the way it was for me and BREAKING SKY.

(Very cool cover!)

The novel's set-up is as follows: In the near future, China has pretty much taken over the world with superior military power, specifically killer drones that keep the United States isolated from the rest of the world.  In response, the US military has created Streakers, experimental jets that it hopes will be able to destroy the drones and even out the balance of power.  The problem?  The Streakers fly so fast and are so difficult to maneuver that only teenagers have the physical make-up to fly them.  Enter Nyx, a headstrong pilot who secretly is the daughter of one of the most hated military leaders in world history.  (Note:  I suck at summaries.)  Basically for you pop culture junkies, it's a combination of Top Gun, Ender's Game, and Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck, who Nyx has a lot in common with in the best ways possible.

What made the book so enjoyable for me was Nyx.  Any reader will tell you that it's always about the main character, and in Nyx, McCarthy has a strong female protagonist who is confident and assertive and aggressive.  I like that a lot.  YA's greatest contribution to literature has been the strong female role model.  Most readers of YA are teenage girls, and I like that they have characters like Katniss, Hazel, and now Nyx to look up to.  This isn't to say Nyx is perfect--she's quick to anger and probably a bit too quick to make-out with boys before dismissing them, which one could argue isn't a fault at all--but don't we want our heroes flawed and real?

BREAKING SKY's flying sequences are fantastically written--exciting, focused, and suspenseful.  I sure as hell know I couldn't have written them.  The writing throughout is clear and interesting, as well.  McCarthy's nailed dialogue, which if I'm being honest, is my favorite part of any novel.  Confrontational moments, which the book is full of, are tense, angry, and ring true.

Recently, BREAKING SKY was acquired by Sony for possible movied-dom.  It's easy to see why-- lots of exciting flying sequences, rebellious teenagers, and romance...it's pretty much a no-brainer.  McCarthy said in a recent interview she's not working on a sequel, but I doubt that lasts for long.  This book is going to be huge, as well it should be.  If it's not, I'm pretty sure McCarthy is going to start kicking some ass.  If so, god help us.

(Oh, and in full disclosure:  Cori McCarthy and I attended the same college, Ohio University.  And we have the same publisher.  And she lives one state away.  Why is this relevant?  Because I'm hoping people tie her awesomeness to me somehow.  One can hope.)

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