In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled debut thriller, America's best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star AcademyChase Harcourt, call sign "Nyx," is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental "Streaker" jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She's tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There's a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn't play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.
March 18, 2015
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Release: March 10th 2015
Great Lakes Book & Supply – Cori McCarthy’s Local Indie! Pre-order here and receive a personalized signed copy.
“Strong characterizations, action, adventure, and emotion combine to produce a sci-fi novel that is more than just the sum of its parts.” —School Library JournalSTARRED Review
“Smart, exciting, confident—and quite possibly the next Big Thing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“McCarthy deploys breath-stopping depictions of high-stakes piloting with enviable ease, and the in-your-face personal confrontations are nearly as taut.” —Publishers Weekly
What inspired you to write Breaking Sky?
The idea for Breaking Sky is an amalgamation of several ideas. My first novel was very bleak and serious—human trafficking serious. Writing it was like having heartburn for the whole year while. When I sat down to come up with a new story, I wanted to do something different and fun. Around that time, I gave birth to a son who I named Maverick, unwittingly inviting Top Gun comments from friends and relatives.
I decided to rewatch the cult classic after many years and was particularly interested in the way the story blends military with civilian, goofiness with action, and heartbreaking loss with ridiculous volleyball scenes. My screenwriting background kicked in, and I began to wonder what a YA version of Top Gun might look like. (My earliest idea might have involved a make out scene in a fighter jet cockpit. :-)
At the same time, I have always enjoyed books like Ender’s Game and Code Name Verity because they make young people feel important on a global scale. With that in mind, I began to imagine a near-futuristic premise involving militarized youth and a cadet academy. I didn’t want to write a sci-fi story (although I love sci-fi). I wanted to write something that was menacing in its familiarity. I started with the United States as a setting and then added thirty-some years.
With the help of my Cold War historian husband and my brother, who works for the State Department, I extrapolated current relations with China, the ticking time bomb that is Taiwanese independence, and the anxiety of a snowballing American depression to craft a worst-case scenario for Breaking Sky’s backstory. I even fictionalized a very real, powerful anti-democratic faction (who shall remain nameless because they’re a dragon I’d rather not poke) into the story’s bad guys.
With all that under my belt, I set about legitimizing my portrayal of the military and jet fighters. I watched a TON of documentaries, and read fighter pilot accounts from World War I to modern day. I didn’t have to go too far to learn more about the Air Force. My father and grandfather served in the Air Force, and my (other) brother is currently serving as a Master Sergeant (E-7).
While I did my best to accurately utilize diction, ranks, and known fighter jet capabilities, I didn’t want this book to feel overly military. Breaking Sky’s academy and the streaker jets have the bonus of being entirely my own creation, so I was able to fictionalize the rules, setting, and mach capabilities (within known limitations—mach speed is technically a dimensionless quantity, making it ripe for fictional vagueness. Ha!).
The last piece of the puzzle came through Chase’s character. With all the excitement around crafting a second cold war/second great depression with teen fighter pilots in a recognizable near-futuristic setting, I didn’t want the emotional story to get overlooked. For that, I dove into my personal high school experience.
There are so many good YA novels about discovering love for the first time, but we don’t often get to see the aftermath—someone already burned. So I wrote a story about a girl who experiences harsh disappointment early in life, and who then finds it incredibly hard to open herself up to the vulnerability of strong feelings. Of course, love and trust are as inevitable as gravity, or so I would like for my readers to come to believe.