Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Dark Eyes by William Richter



Dark EyesDark Eyes by William Richter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


From the second I first saw Dark Eyes, I knew we were going to be great friends. Everyone in the world liked the Millennium trilogy, so labeling this book as YA version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a smart move indeed… but fortunately, it’s not just a marketing trick, it has a grain of truth to it.

In her short sixteen years, Valentina Mayakova has lived three very different lives. Shortly after birth, she was abandoned at a Russian orphanage, where she spent her first few years, with no one but an affectionate cleaning lady to care for her properly. At five, she was adopted by a rich American couple and taken to New York, where she became Wallis Stoneman, a pampered, but aggressive and stubborn girl. By her fifteenth birthday, her parents were already divorced, and Wallis, angry and defiant, left her mother Claire for a life on the streets of New York. Her street family consists of three other people: Ella, Jake, and Trevin. One day, while trying to make a new fake ID, Wally accidentally discovers a letter from her birthmother, with a heartfelt note and a valuable stone, and starts looking for her real mother all over the city. But she’s not the only one looking: her real father has just escaped from a Russian prison and dragged her older brother Tiger to New York to find her mother and the rest of the stones.

Don’t you just love it when someone writes for young adults like they aren’t made of glass? When an author respects that teens can read about something very traumatic and not be overly traumatized themselves? I often think about how patronizing YA authors tend to be toward their audience, but William Richter does not pull back. In Dark Eyes, he doesn’t just gloss over the events that put those kids on the streets. We learn about Ella’s vicious stepfather who used to rape and photograph her until she finally couldn’t take it anymore. We get a glimpse of Jake’s story, his dead parents and sister, and the abuse he had to put up with from his cousins and state appointed guardians. We get to really learn the details about the beaten and murdered meth addict in the morgue. We get bloody action scenes, throats get cut, women get beaten almost to death, and all the while, there is a steady stream of profanities in Russian. (The fun part for me was that Russian and Croatian swear words are almost the same so I chuckled every time Klesko said something particularly juicy.)

Dark Eyes reminded me so much of a Hollywood action movie, which I suppose makes perfect sense since William Harlan Richter is a Hollywood screenwriter. I kept waiting for Bruce Willis to show up, barefoot and in a white sleeveless shirt, and shoot all those wicked Russian mobsters. He didn’t come, but he could have – he would have fit right in.

There is, of course, the small issue of predictability. I knew everything that was going to happen at least fifty pages before it did and I knew which characters were going to die the second they showed up. It didn’t really bother me, however, and I don’t think Richter was aiming to surprise. Dark Eyes is a thrill ride that uses gritty, realistic details of life on the streets to shock and captivate the reader. I hope there's a sequel in the works.



11 comments:

  1. So what do you think the main similarities were to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? The heroine, maybe? I can't believe they renamed her Wallis. That's almost child abuse! ;) Even worse that she apparently goes by Wally, ha! Great review Maja - this one sounds really fast-paced and fun, even if it was a bit predictable.

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    1. The kick-ass, but self-destructive heroine, mostly, but also the tone, especially in the first half, the gritty details, all the addicts. Then, in the second half, it drifts away toward a big-budget Hollywood action movie. I didn't like the second half nearly as much as the first.

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  2. This sounds amazing to me. I've seen this around but never thought to pick it up. I think yours is the first review I've even read on it. Amazing review, Maja. :)

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    1. Giselle wrote a fantastic review, it's what made me want to read it. Defintiely check it out when you have time. :)

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  3. I remember this when if first came out and I was wondering about it, but didn't see much on it. Hey I love Bruce Willis action movies even at his age now he can still make the movie. Too bad he didn't show up in this! I think this sounds like good time, action, gritty and no holds bar! Great review. I see you are reeading the Restorer hope you like it. I need to read The Prophet still in that series!

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  4. I don't think I ever bothered to even read the book description for this. I've seen the cover around before but I hadn't thought about adding it to my TBR pile. But you've definitely convinced me to now! It sounds like a refreshing change to the usual stories I read, and I don't think I would mind a bit of grittiness. Lovely review my dear! :)

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  5. "Don’t you just love it when someone writes for young adults like they aren’t made of glass?"

    Yes yes YES!!! I love this. And while I'm not sure if I've heard of this before, it is DEFINITELY getting a spot on my to-read list now. **runs off to Goodreads**

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  6. Wow, I had absolutely no clue what this book was about, despite having seen the cover numerous times. Sounds like a winner.

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  7. I am sure I've seen this cover before but I had no idea what it was about. I did enjoy the Millennium Trilogy, so you definitely caught my interested by mentioning the comparison. And Valentina/Wallis sounds ike a kickarse character!

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  8. oh, great review! I believe you told me about this one on my WOW post of Cold Fury (last week) and I wanted to say I actually have this one! I bought it back in April and just haven't got to it yet, but I am VERY excited for it... especially now, after reading your amazing review! must squeeze it in to the reading pile. :)

    Ashelynn @ gypsy book reviews.

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  9. I saw this one at my library and just thought it was a bit too gimmicky for me. I do, however, see the appeal after reading your review. While I don't think it's for me, I do know many readers who would love this one so I'll pass the rec to them.

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