Firekeeper's Daughter -- Powerful YA Novel with Native American Ties


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

It is hard to find a contemporary story with strong Native American people in it. It is even harder to find a good one written by a Native American. Today I am sharing a powerful young adult novel that is just that. This book is definitely for young adults and older. There is sex, rape, drugs, violence, and swearing in it. However I found the story to be fascinating and learned some things about Native American life today that I did not know. The book is Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley. 

From the Publisher:


An Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller

Soon to be adapted at Netflix for TV with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground.

“One of this year's most buzzed about young adult novels.” —Good Morning America

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, perfect for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.

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.

From Me:

Where do I begin? I will start by saying this was not a quick read. It wasn't that I didn't get into the book because I did. I enjoyed it from the beginning, but found I wasn't reading it very quickly. It was pretty intense. Daunis has a very hard life. She is half Ojibwe and half white. Her white grandparents did not accept her Native American father and as a result he married a different woman and had a son around her age. He died when she was pretty young. Then there is her mother who seems fragile to Daunis. Her mother just lost her brother and her mother is close to dying. Her mother has become very overprotective of Daunis and worries about her constantly. This is a lot for anyone to handle let alone an eighteen-year-old. Then you throw in that she witnesses a murder and becomes an FBI informant and you can see where the complications go. The plot of the story is so interesting but my favorite parts are learning more about the culture. Daunis's Aunt Teddie makes sure she learns her Ojibwe culture and is included in it.

The residential schools are discussed and the result of them on some of the people who attended and some who did not is shared. The book goes over a year so two powwows occur and the dancing and traditions behind them are in there. Even discussions around a woman's monthly period is discussed and how it is seen in the Ojibwe culture. Of course, there is also the respect for community and elders. What I found interesting and terrifying is the violence against Native women. In the Author's Note Angeline shares that four out five Native women have experienced some form of violence in their life and that most goes unpunished as is the case of rape in this book. That statistic should be alarming to all of us and I feel we as a country need to put a stop to it. As I mentioned this book is powerful and has some powerful messages about Native Americans and their culture as well as some of the issues they deal with everyday that goes unknown to other American residents. 

This book is a fantastic read however I could see it even more used in a high school or college classroom. The discussion about so many of the issues brought up as well as the cultural differences would be amazing. I honestly would love to see this book brought into every high school as required reading. As you can see from the publisher's section, it has won many awards. I truly hope you will check it out.