New York City detective Atley Greer is tracking down the murderer of a young woman, a drug addict, whose identification states she’s Wallis “Wally” Stoneman, age 17. Wally’s mother, Claire, now a single parent, is resigned when the detective shows up at her door with questions about the whereabouts of her runaway daughter. But the picture Greer produces of the dead young woman isn’t Wally.
The real Wally is smart, tough, and proficient in martial arts and with handguns. And she didn’t run away for normal reasons, like mental illness, drugs, or abuse. In fact, Wally didn’t run far from home, and every once in a while, she goes to visit her mother.
She ran away because she felt like she didn’t belong.
Adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was five, Wally (formerly called Valentina) was brought to America. Instead of appreciating her loving parents and good home in a “fashionable” district, Wally, always a bit of a wild-child, becomes obsessed with finding her biological parents, to the point where she pushes her mother and father away.
But the old adage is true: Be careful what you wish for.
Dark Eyes is a harrowing, easy-to-read and exciting tale about a driven young woman searching for her identity in all the wrong ways. Wally stumbles upon something during her search that leads to chaos, violence, and murder.
Richter doesn’t provide much internal or reflective dialogue for Wally, so readers are left with the feeling that Wally doesn’t think about anything else besides finding her birth parents, and where the next meal is coming from. But one thing becomes evident: Wally is a natural-born leader. She’s taken responsibility for three other runaways: Tevin, Jake, and Ella. Unlike Wally, the others came from abusive backgrounds. As the story unwinds, it’s apparent that Wally’s experienced love and had opportunities the others haven’t. The group lives in abandoned buildings, and they steal things to sell to black market peddlers to buy food and clothing.
Two things struck me as I read this story. First, it’s important to teach children from a young age the first and biggest virtue: gratitude. Our problems might not become all-consuming and destructive if we learn gratitude at a young age. We also have to learn to accept that God works through suffering.
Second, I’m uneasy about the increasingly negative portrayal of adoption as something that is traumatic for children. Being aborted is deadly, and living in an orphanage or on the streets without the love and attention of parents is traumatic. While people naturally yearn to know their heritage, if introduced in the right way, most children adapt and flourish. And after all, God has adopted us as His children.
But if you like action and adventure, you will not be disappointed by reading William Richter’s Dark Eyes. Readers are kept in suspense until the end. The story also doesn’t gloss over the seamy side of life. Though author William Richter shows great restraint in using profane language and writing about sexual themes, he portrays the tragic reality of many runaway juveniles: many have been abused, use and abuse drugs and alcohol, commit crimes, and become victims of crime. No one could accuse him of glamorizing anything that these teens go through.
Image copyright Razorbill. Review copy obtained from the reviewer's local library.
Kim Moreland manages the Colson Center Library, is a research associate for BreakPoint, and writes feature articles and blog posts for BreakPoint.
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