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YA Review: The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angelene Boulley

Title: The Firekeeper's Daughter
Author: Angelene Boulley
Year published: 2021
Category: YA fiction (thriller)
Pages: 496 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (MI)

SummaryA TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time Selection
Amazon's Best YA Book of 2021 So Far (June 2021)
A 2021 Kids' Indie Next List Selection
An Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Books of 2021 Selection
A PopSugar Best March 2021 YA Book Selection

With four starred reviews, Angeline Boulley's debut novel, Firekeeper's Daughter, is a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community.

Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after 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, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.

Now, as the deceptions―and deaths―keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Review: I really meant to read this book in 2021 and didn't. I think I was intimidated by how long it is and couldn't quite face a long book in amongst dealing with a new job and my old job feeling icky. All pathetic excuses, I know. I saw all the amazing reviews and am so glad that I finally got around to reading this novel. Then it won 2 of the YMA Awards last month: The Michael L. Printz Award for best YA literature of the year and the William C. Morris Award for best YA debut of the year. Pretty impressive and I totally support those awards. This novel is incredible. And my gosh, just look at that gorgeous cover!

Where to begin with this book. First, an apology to Anne at My Head is Full of Books for racing ahead in our read-along. I couldn't help it! Anne and I agreed to read 150 pages a week and by chance those page markings were where the action ramped up so I had to forge ahead and finish the book ahead of schedule.

I love the way the Ojibwe culture is infused in this novel; it really is the backbone to all decisions and thoughts of the main character. I loved reading the language and learning about the incorporation of the environment and ancestors in every-day life and actions. My favorite idea was that when decisions are being made, the person is to look forward seven generations to think of how the decision will affect people down the line. The sense of community is profound.

The mystery is also really well done and builds to an intensity near the very end that kept me riveted. While there are quite a few characters to keep track of--hockey players, family members, and the community--it is easy to remember them and their relationship to Daunis.

Without giving away too much of the story, the final women's ceremony was extremely powerful. It gave the author a chance to shed light on how Native American women are treated and ignored by the wider US system in a shameful way.

I loved this book.

Challenges for which this counts:  
  • Alphabet Soup (Title)--F
  • Pop Sugar--2 languages
  • YMA--Morris and Printz Awards

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