Way Down Dark by JP Smythe (@jpsmythe)

There’s one truth on Australia: you fight or you die. Usually both.

Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one. The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

When I read this novel, off the back of a recommendation, I was immediately drawn in by the blurb, above. Then I opened the book and was glued by the opening line.

‘After I helped to kill my mother, I had to burn the body.’

After that, I couldn’t stop reading. Chan is the MC and she is orphaned in a spaceship called Australia. With few allies, everyone looks after #1, she must survive in a ship divided by levels, morals and intention.

The lower levels, where a pool of dead, decaying bodies float, are home to the Lows, led by the wicked Rex. What most interested me about her, and made her better than most antagonists, was just how similar she is to Chan – if only she’d been born higher up in the ship, I felt she might have been very different, and vice-versa for Chan. It’s a real example of how environment develops nature.

The story itself is full of tension, conflict and danger for Chan, and there are also some lovely slower moments and character relationships that emerge.

But the twist in this story is marvellous and while all the clues were there, I didn’t see it coming myself. Despite the darkness of the place, Chan usually manages to make good, moral decisions and in light of how the story unravels, this is to be wondered at. The wide array of characters and people help populate the huge ship and the story is equally fulfilling.

If you’re looking for a kick-ass YA story, set in space and exploring human darkness, this is the one for you.