book review · books · reading · YA

Way Down Dark by J.P Smythe | Book Review


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia

Pages: 288

Format: Paperback

Buy The Book: Waterstones, Amazon, The Book Despository


Goodreads Summary: There’s one truth on Australia. You fight or you die. Usually both. Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape. Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one. This is a hell where no one can hide. The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive. This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs. 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.

I read this book for the UKYA Reading in the Rain Book club which is hosted by Ally, where we read one book a month from the UKYA Genre and then discuss it via google hangout. If you’ve read the book and would like more in depth and spoiler-y discussion, feel free to check out the video!

This book is the first in a new YA sci-fi/dystopian trilogy and boy is it gritty. I’ve read a number of YA trilogies in my time and some have some pretty epic fight scenes but this book takes that to a while different level and doesn’t hold back. Smythe’s descriptions of old and new injuries are brutal and vivid but I really enjoyed that. It felt very realistic to how life on this ship would be and I appreciated that he didn’t hold back on the fights or injuries due to his audience.

This book is very short but I thought Smythe did a good job establishing the world and interesting characters. Chan is very resilient and tough as a result of the environment that she lives in but we also see she has a softer side when she interacts with the children on board. She can also be very vulnerable, particularly when it comes to her recently deceased mother. My favourite character in the book was Jonah, who belongs to the group dubbed the ‘Pale Women’ who are a group living secluded at the top of the ship with a faith. I thought he was very interesting and I liked the slow build of his relationship with Chan a lot. Unlike many other YA trilogies, this one didn’t feel forced or rushed and right now it only might become something.

My biggest complaint with this book is the writing. I was just not a fan. I felt like it was very simple and also very repetitive at times which pulled me out of the story and became quite distracting. It’s definitely the weakest part of the book in my opinion which is a shame because everything else was definitely above average. I also think the book could’ve been a bit longer; some parts of it did feel rushed and glossed over and it would’ve been great to see the characters fleshed out a bit more.

Overall I did enjoy this book and found it an entertaining and gritty read. I’m not totally sure if I will be continuing on with the series, but as the sequel comes out next month I may still be interested. The end of this book definitely leaves you wanting more as it could go in any direction!


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