I got this book expecting a YA Space Opera - kids or teens in a space setting having exciting, dangerous adventures. I got that, and so much more.
Ro Maldonado is more than just our protagonist; she's an anti-heroine. This girl has been dragged from place to place to place for the entirety of her young life by her shiftless, abusive father, never staying in any one place long enough to put down roots or make connections. The isolation in which she lives is palpable; it is like the space surrounding the station, vast and seemingly boundless, and apparently offering her only pain and danger.
Yet Ro is not really our only protagonist; we meet several others in succession, each teenager trying to eke out a life in physical and emotional space that does not suit their needs - parents that do not understand their wants, their needs, their joys, their talents. From a first-born son whose musical brilliance pales in his parents eyes in comparison to his younger brother's technological aptitude, to the son of the shifty politician bearing a laser-focused grudge against the drug cartels whose business contributed to his mother's death, to the warmly personable communications engineer who reaches out to Ro shortly after she is assigned to the latter's station, Cohen doesn't actually give us one person to follow, but many. She deftly interweaves their daring acts and their fears, their secrets colliding until things break open - and then we, along with these characters, meet the damaged AI of the eponymous ship.
Every single one of these characters has both strengths and flaws as befits an actual teenage person who is struggling to stand on their own two feet and find their place in the universe, and they interact in very human ways. This frequently means miscommunication, keeping of secrets, lashing out out of hurt, and surprising, heart-rending acts of sweet bravery.
When I got done I closed it and hugged it to my chest and managed to barely not cry on the bust on which I was travelling. My companion looked at me stroking the back cover with my thumbs as I hugged it and said, "Good book, huh?" "You have no idea," I replied, and recommended that she read it.
I recommend it broadly, both in its intended Young Adult age bracket and for adults who have refused to build a wall between themselves and their understanding of the tumultuous, confusing time of inner and interpersonal development that is the teenage years - in space as on earth, unlikely friendships can be forged to save lives and give many people hope.