Dark Eyes, by William Richter
Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.
Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko - her darkeyed father - finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally's had her own killer training, and she's hungry for justice. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens, this debut thriller introduces our next big series heroine!
Those who know me a little will understand why I was all over this one the second I saw it on Goodreads!
Wally is a street kid who lives in an abandoned building with three of her friends. When she goes to get a new fake ID in New York’s Russian neighborhood, the photo store owner unexpectedly hands her an envelope with her Russian name on it. Inside, Wally finds a single gem and a letter from her birth mother…
Without spoilering, I’ll just say that events escalate and all manner of escapes and shootouts ensue.
What I loved:
Well… ladies and gentlemen, this is how you write a tough-as-nails YA heroine. I’ve been waiting so long for this. She knows martial arts, is whip-smart, and basically solves her own problems without relying on her love interest. The little romance there was in the story wasn’t the focus (it’s not all roses, but I’ll get to that later.) And she doesn’t lose her cool in a shootout. How awesome is that?
The plot holds together for the most part. I did not see the twists coming (one of them, I sort of had my guesses, but the other came completely by surprise). Can’t tell much without spoiling but this one didn’t dumb down its plot because it’s aimed at younger audience.
And while we’re on the subject of dumbing down…I loved how uncensored this book is. There’s swearing, drug references, violence—lots of it, and nothing is glossed over. The lives of Wally and her friends on the street (and the circumstances that brought them there) are described in unflinching detail and not glamorized.
And finally, bonus points for actually doing research about Russian culture and language (and swear words, hehehe.) Respect, товарищ Richter! ;)
What bothered me:
Wally is a street kid, but unlike her friends she wasn’t forced into it by circumstances beyond her control: her mother, rich real estate agent Claire Stoneman, would be happy to have her back home. That bothered me a little. Wally didn’t have any real reason to resent her mother that much. SPOILER ALERT And this should have made the end all the more heartrending for Wally… and I didn’t feel like it did.
Also, a lot of reviews on GR mentioned that the language is a bit dry. I think this book would have been even better in first person (but I know it’s harder to write mystery plots in first because of the limited viewpoint.) I really wanted to get inside Wally’s head, to know what she’s thinking and feeling. Especially since Wally is the stoic type (another rarity in YA!) and doesn’t show much emotion, even when SPOILER her love interest is shot dead. In that, she did remind me of Lisbeth Salander a lot. *le squee*
And another thing: THIS IS A SPOILER ALTHOUGH NOT A MAJOR ONE. I didn’t like the way the romance (and the subsequent death of the LI) was handled. He dies after the two finally cave in to the unresolved sexual tension? Yes, the author is a script writer, but even for a movie, this is such an easy, cliché moment. I feel like it could have been done better.
I know GR is not an indication, but this book seems to be a sleeper. This might be because of the dry language, and that’s a pity, because this is a really good book with a great heroine. I’m looking forward to the next one.
My rating: A solid four stars.