Book Review – Way Down Dark

Author: James P. Smythe
Series: The Australia Trilogy
Genres: Young Adult, Science fiction, Dystopia 
Release Date: 2nd July 2015
Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton
No. Pages: 288
Source: Bookbridgr
Buy at: BookDepository

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.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.

And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain.


This is author James Smythe’s first venture into Young Adult, and boy did he enter with a bang.

Hundreds of years ago, life on earth as we know it collapsed, and so the humans fled to space in search of a new home. At least that’s how the stories aboard the Australia go.

But Australia is no longer what it used to be; deadly gangs have formed making life on Australia one of violence and survival. This is a life seventeen year-old Chan is all too familiar with. When Chan is forced to aid her mother in a task she would never have dreamt off, she is suddenly on the radar of the most deadly gang of all; the lows.

Chan is a likeable protagonist, but she is by no means perfect. She struggles to remain selfish and keep her promise to her mother (“don’t die”), whilst witnessing the destruction of society. Chan doesn’t think she’s going to magically make everything better but she knows she can’t just sit around doing nothing anymore, especially when the lows decide it’s time to claim more of the ship for themselves.

Whilst this book is primarily narrated by Chan, we also have four chapters which are told from Agatha’s, a friend of Chan’s mother, point of view. Agatha’s chapters tell us the backstory of how she met Chan’s mother, what life was like before Chan was born and how the different factions formed on Australia. These chapters allows the reader to truly experience how Australia’s society is crumbling.

We often hear about how ‘violent’ and ‘dangerous’ life is in YA without ever actually experiences the forefront of this violence, that’s not the case in way down dark. Smythe doesn’t sugarcoat the dangers of Australia.

Way down dark hooks you from the very first chapter until the end. You’ll think you know where the book is going before it does a complete 180 and you’re left with even more questions.

I can’t wait for the sequel!

4stars

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