SLEEPING DOGS by Sonya Hartnett. (Viking: $12.99; 129 pp.) According to the jacket copy, “Sleeping Dogs” is a young adult novel. If that is the case, it is for the oldest young adults in recorded history. The story is fraught with violence and complicated emotional dynamics but could easily be understood by a teen-ager. Sonya Hartnett, however, writes with a slow, rhythmic, literary style that focuses heavily on character and relationships. Most American teen-agers would run out of patience well before the end.
The Willow family lives on a decrepit farm in rural Australia. As a group, it has surpassed “dysfunctional” years ago and is moving into “dangerous.” Switching point of view between the five siblings and Bow Fox, an outsider who threatens to unearth their secrets, “Sleeping Dogs” gracefully builds toward the murder of one of its characters.