deDark Eyes by William Richter
Release Date: February 21, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: NetGalley
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Get ready for the vigilante girl detective of the next generation.

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 dark-eyed 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!

Valentina, renamed Wallis, or Wally, was adopted from Russia (something Americans are no longer allowed to do) at age five. Her removal from the orphanage was a sad scene, and the one that follows it is the same. Wally is, appaently, selling ecstasy and ketamine to college kids. And when the narrative switches from Wally to Detective Greer, it’s a bit of a cold open, so to speak. I loved it. I never mind having things I don’t understand thrown at me in the beginning, as long as the pieces come together eventually (which was true of recent urban fantasy novel Between Two Thorns). The beginning is also a red herring, a lie, and I liked that too. I tore through this one, even though it’s almost 400 pages, because the writing is tight, the plot moves quickly, and it’s just so good. Plus, not all the characters are white! Wally and Jake are, but Tevin is black and Ella is Asian. That’s more diversity than the last ten books I’ve reviewed here, and even then, the POC characters are secondary. Wally the blonde is the main protagonist, which is so normal in YA literature, I’m kind of amazed it doesn’t get called out more often.

Anyway, Wally is the leader of the group, and the one with the least messed-up story. The other kids have had hard lives and tragedy, while Wally had an adoptive mother unwilling to allow her daughter to be Russian. And maybe Claire was doing what she thought best, if she knew the secret of Wally’s parentage. Even at the beginning of Wally’s search for self, danger lurks. The narrative style is third person omniscient, which is a style I personally like (how can you only like first person POV? It can get really annoying), so the narrative switches between characters, some seemingly minor, to give the reader information about the mystery. I could see a movie play out in front of me as I read this novel, which makes sense, as Richter is a screenwriter by trade. I had an idea about who Wally was from the start, and I was partially correct, but the whole story is so much better. And as a personal aside, Dave has a friend who was adopted, and while he knew his birth family, he still had some textbook issues, like abandonment, jealousy, things like that. I sort of felt like Richter’s story demonized adoption, and I don’t believe it’s always terrible. I have an adopted cousin and he’s totally fine. Most adopted kids are fine. I think when things start to go bad is when the adoptive parents won’t let their children learn about or immerse themselves in their own culture, which is what happened with Wally and with Dave’s friend.

Wally is on a personal quest that just so happens to involved murderers and generally bad people. This is sort of a coming of age tale on steroids. You know how much I like coming of age stories! This one was just so polished. I usually don’t like it when men write female characters, but Richter really did a great job. I can totally understand why this one is being compared to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s smart, the points of view shift, and it’s a really compelling mystery with interesting characters. What it’s missing is the horribly boring first 100 pages of Larssen’s novel (sorry, but it’s true), and who can really complain about that? I thought the writing was really tight and the book held my interest for the entire span of the book. I think I read it in about 24 hours. And the only reason I dropped a star is I saw the twist coming from a mile away. That did not detract AT ALL from the story though. I really recommend this one. It was fantastic. This one can almost be a standalone novel, but there is a sequel, called Tiger, that was released on March 21 from Razorbill. I will definitely be reading that one too!