Way Down Dark by J.P. Smythe (The Australia Trilogy, Book One)
Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. Generations later, they are still searching . . .
Every day aboard the interstellar transport ship Australia is a kind of hell, where no one is safe, no one can hide. Indeed, the only life Chan’s ever known is one of endless violence. A life of survival. Fiercely independent and entirely self-sufficient, she has learned to keep her head down as much as possible, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the mayhem. For the Australia is a ship of death, filled with murderous gangs and twisted cults, vying for supremacy in a closed environment with limited resources and no hope.
And then one day Chan makes an extraordinary discovery–there may be a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so will only bring her to the attention of the fanatics and murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.
Is it worth endangering her life and the lives of her few friends and loved ones for an uncertain return to a home world that may be uninhabitable? Especially since to do so she must descend into the deep dark in the bowels of the ship, which is piled high with the bodies and the secrets of the dead . . .
I don’t normally read YA, and the premise aims for fans of Divergent, which I haven’t read, but I’m a big fan of J.P. (James) Smythe’s character work and mystery-built science fiction. I enjoyed the setting of being on a ship, isolated from the truth of what brought them there, and fearing a small civilization built on myth and ruthless violence. The main character grew on me by the end, though at times the brutal nature of her environment was hard to endure. I’m glad I kept reading, because the ending had great action and revelations about this ship’s habitat, its purpose and the adventure to come. The book gets bogged down at times with the isolation of tiny confines within the ship, and a repetitive cycle of hunting and running, but the ending was a breath of fresh air that made me eager to jump right in to the sequel, Long Dark Dusk.