The gripping story of an Ojibwe girl who risks all to go undercover and stop those trying to tear her community apart.
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Why I love it
I read a lot: for work and for pleasure, and when I pick up a new book I’m looking for an engrossing story that helps expand my cultural and literary horizons. Angeline Boulley’s young adult thriller Firekeeper’s Daughter, about a biracial Anishinaabe teen who confronts the darkest corners of her community in order to save it, ticks both those boxes.
Daunis Fontaine, a college freshman trying to reconcile both halves of her identity, is the hero of this story and a typical teen. She hangs out with her half-brother Levi’s hockey team, helps to look after the women in her family, crushes on a handsome new student, and supports her friends in their own love lives. But when an unspeakable tragedy occurs, her world is shattered. As Daunis struggles with the senseless violence that has made its way into her life, she takes on the harrowing task of working undercover with the FBI to discover the source of a dangerous new strain of meth on the local reservation and to help protect her community from further harm.
Firekeeper’s Daughter is a nail-biting thriller, but it’s also a vital testament to the everyday courage, humor, and resilience of Native women: in her author’s note, Boulley cites the heartbreaking fact that 84% of Native women experience violence in their lifetime. I tore through this book: I laughed, cried, stayed up too late finishing it, and I came out on the other side moved and inspired by Daunis and the fierce constellation of sisters, mothers, daughters, and ancestors who make up 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.