Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
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A true genre-bender with romantic and coming-of-age undertones stitched on the cultural canopy of a mystery slash thriller. A story defined by identity and written for those who belong. A tale that explores justice through a community, through a tired, smoky lens. Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. for the opportunity to read this early!
Firekeeper’s Daughter is a young adult thriller that dedicates culture and justice through a Native biracial protagonist.
Daunis, an eighteen-year-old biracial, has never felt like she completely belongs in either of her parents’ world: her white mother’s privileged, highly influential family or her Anishinaabe father’s Ojibwe Tribe that she remains a non-enrolled member of. Her plan to pursue medicine and play hockey is the slightest bit of occurrence she seems to have a control over, because losing her uncle to a drug compulsion and seeing her grandmother fight the severe after-stroke complications are tragic incidences affecting her life non permissibly. But when she witnesses a traumatic murder oblique suicide, the tragedy multiplies. Being thrown into an investigation and subsequently becoming a confidential informant for the FBI ignites Daunis’ newfound aim of focusing on the rising affliction of meth in the community.
The unapologetic immersion of the narration into the Indigenous community is easily the strongest aspect; from the truest, painful recounting of the historical atrocities to the tradition and rituals that make up the cultural essence of their days. Even the focus on modern politics and effects of contemporary policies further paint the realistic struggles of the community. The response and reactions received by Daunis from her family —the one that always considered this heritage of hers to be a flaw— throughout this tale is an authentic recount of how blatant racism influences the way Indigenous people are perceived, and the burden of sadness one feels when such recoil comes from family.
Having said that, the romance didn’t develop with enough feelings for me to strongly support it and the lack of characterisation with respect to the side cast slightly disappointed me. Regardless, the mysterious setting was created well with the gloomy atmosphere and a heavy air, and the puzzling clues that were to be put together successfully build an intrigue. Despite being able to predict the end, the execution of it all deserve an applause. Overall, the manner in which Firekeeper’s Daughter highlights the strength and cogency of an independent young woman through a story of loss, pain, and doubt, is truly commendable, especially with the Native American voice it brings to the centre stage.
my rating ↣ ★★★★☆
N O T E
I’m in no place to give detailed comments on the representation of the characters’ ethnicity or the cultural references in this book so please pay heed to the ownvoices reviews for these aspects above mine.