Online friends brought together by their drone hobby help others with their skills.
The multicultural crew are introduced in a frontmatter dramatis personae: African-American girly-girl ace pilot Zora Michaels, Vietnamese-American genius Howard To, white tough-girl hacker Parker Reading, and Indian-American aesthete Sai Patel. They are all members of a private message board and call themselves the Society for Web-Operated Aerial Robotic Missions, or Drone Academy. The friends support one another (and their customized-to-suit drones), and they participate in missions to do good works with the drones. The book is divided into four straightforward sections telling each character’s story in turn. Zora uses her drone to look for a young runaway facing a forest fire (and also reconciles her popularity with her internal nerd); Howard takes on a paparazzi drone spying on his favorite actress; Parker faces off against some high-tech jewel thieves; and Sai finds his drone design copied by a mysterious, troublemaking imposter looking to frame him for misdeeds. The high-tech, fast-paced action builds to ever greater threats with each story. Aside from Parker, the kids are generally law-abiding, and instead of vigilantism they turn things over to authorities; all model supportive friendships. Aside from a heavily-hinted-at intragroup crush, there’s no romance. Sai’s storyline, which includes bullying and victims of bullying, carries the biggest emotional punch and ends the book on an ambiguous note, reflecting Sai’s complexity.
A welcome geeky addition, especially for reluctant readers. (Science fiction. 9-14)