Way Down Dark (Australia) - J.P. Smythe

Way Down Dark is a book I picked up at a convention last year, partly attracted by the cover and my decision cemented by hearing the author speak on a couple of panels, even though I don't particularly 'do' YA dystopia novels. The premise sounded interesting enough though, given that it's set on a spaceship rather than (as seems par for the course) the ruins of a destroyed USA, that I thought I'd give it a go...

 

The main character is Chan, just turned seventeen, whose parents and grandparents have never known a life other than the one they have on the spaceship Australia - they've been told all about how Earth was ruined and ships sent off in search of a new home but have no way of knowing how long they've travelled. Inside the ship itself, life is hard and many of the inhabitants have joined different factions with very much a 'kill or be killed' mentality ruling over their daily lives. To protect Chan, her dying mother insists Chan kills her so that the kudos from this act will enhance her reputation and the aftermath of this act affects the rest of the storyline. 

 

The ship is pretty much at a tipping point when the story starts, with one particular factor beginning to expand into all of the available space and destroying everyone in their way. Initially Chan doesn't resist, following her mother's admonition to 'be selfish', but she is finally pushed too far and begins to react to what's going on but without any particular plan. When things go wrong, her mother's friend offers Chan a lifeline which she then turns into something of a crusade and which sets up the rest of the trilogy (which continues in Long Dark Dusk). As we discover, things are not quite what they seem where the Australia is concerned and the stories Chan has been told about why they're on-board are barely even true. 

 

I have to say, this is not YA dystopia with a heavy sauce of teen romance poured over it. There is a main male character, Jonah, whose fate we're left uncertain about at the end of the book though I won't be at all surprised if he pops up again in the next book, but there's really only a tiny spark of interest between the two of them from Chan's perspective. In the end, I think what stopped me giving this book 5 stars was that it backs away from the more physical nature of what being a 17 year old girl is like - it could be due to their insufficient diet but Chan doesn't apparently have periods. There also seems to be minimal sexual activity going on around her despite the large number of children of various ages running around the ship. I may be the only person who thinks about things like this, but these kind of things are enough to bug me into dropping a star.