Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley: suspenseful mystery immersed with Ojibwe culture, setting and identity (ages 14+)

Do your teens crave an immersive mystery that also raises important social issues about identity, community and drug addiction? I highly recommend Firekeeper's Daughter, Angeline Boulley's groundbreaking debut novel. In this suspenseful mystery, Daunis Fontaine, an Ojibwe teen living in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, witnesses the shocking murder of her best friend and gets thrust into an FBI drug investigation. 

Firekeeper's Daughter
by Angeline Boulley
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2021
ages 14+

Eighteen-year-old Daunis has always felt like an outsider--whether navigating the Ojibwe and the white sides of her family, or making a place for herself as a girl playing on the boys' hockey team.  When her best friend is murdered, Daunis reluctantly agrees to help the covert FBI operation investigating a series of drug-related deaths. At first, she's excited to be part of this investigation, but soon she realizes that the deceptions are striking close to home, and Daunis must decide how she can best protect her community and what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe Kwewag (Native American woman). 

I especially appreciate how skillfully Boulley weaves together rich character development, a brisk plot with plenty of twists and turns, and immersive cultural setting. I was immediately drawn into Daunis's character as a strong, hockey-playing teen who wants to combine traditional medicine with modern science, and who celebrates the Ojibwe traditions as well as challenges preconceived notions about Native people. 

One aspect that really stuck with me is how fiercely Daunis wants to protect her community. She talks several times about how decisions that Native communities make are taken looking forward for several generations, because they see themselves as stewards of their communities and the land, not just for right now but for future generations. Boulley deals with tough topics like drug use, rape, and murder, but she balances these dark topics with Daunis's strong determination and the support she gets from several different women in her family.

I'm excited that the Obama's production company, Higher Ground, will adapt Firekeeper's Daughter for a Netflix TV series.

The review copy came from my public library, via OverDrive. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site.

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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