Cressida has lived on the Olympus Station her entire life, having been born in space just like the last several generations before her. When her class is allowed to take a field trip to a neighboring military station, everyone is excited at the chance to see someplace new. Everyone except for Cress. While her classmates are eager to get a glimpse of life at the most prestigious military academy on this side of the universe, she's more worried about what lies below.
When several convicts organize a prison break from the maximum security prison lurking in the bowels of the station, Cress and several of her classmates are taken hostage during the escape. With the convicts in charge of their shuttle, they crash land on an uncharted planet far away from home and even further from any hope of rescue.
The students band together in an attempt to survive as long as possible, but it won’t be easy. Aside from the convicts who are willing to do anything to survive, they will have to fight starvation, the elements, and the many surprises the planet has to offer. With their lives falling apart, Cress begins to understand that things were never truly as they seemed back home. While lost, she finds a sense of purpose, and it drives her to survive at all costs.