cover image Dark Eyes

Dark Eyes

William Richter. Razorbill, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59514-457-7

A Russian mobster out for vengeance. A distraught adoptive mother who takes time from her high-flying real estate business to go to the morgue. A hardnosed cop admiring the street skills of a private-school kid gone rogue. These cameos are sketched with skill and conviction, but the protagonist of screenwriter Richter's first YA novel, 16-year-old Wallis Stoneman, is more of a puzzle. Independent and fierce, Wallis has willingly given up a sheltered life on the Upper West Side to join a tight crew of homeless youth who rummage for food and clothing on the streets of Harlem. Obsessed with the search for her birth mother, Yalena Mayakova, who she has never known, Wallis becomes involved with ruthless criminals who will lead her toward discovering her true origins, but will also destroy those she loves. Despite Richter's well-paced action sequences and the book's cinematic scope, Wallis is not an entirely convincing teenage heroine, strongly reminiscent of characters like La Femme Nikita and Lisbeth Salander, but lacking in authenticity and psychological depth. Noir homages may also be lost on the intended audience. Agent: Kari Stuart, ICM. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Mar.)