Firekeeper's Daughter is an excellent #OwnVoices story
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Genre: Mystery, COA
Publish date March 16, 2021, 320 pages
Wow! This. Book. (and the outstanding cover)! I absolutely loved this debut novel! The characters are excellent; Daunis is an amazing depiction of a strong, smart, female teen but still realistic in that she's struggling to navigate her way between the white world and her Native world - it's a case of not fully fitting in either. I found this aspect handled really well, a light but effective touch, underlying everything but not beating me over the head with it.
I guess it's considered YA because most of the characters are 18-19 years old, but it doesn't read like a normal YA novel - the plotting is a little more complex and the language more nuanced than many YA books. At the end of it, I found myself waffling about whether I'd classify it as YA - [no decision] so I'll go with the published opinion. It does have a few trigger scenes, some violence and drug use, but nothing graphic.
The mystery is a strong component as well - a few clues dropped along the way for the reader, but the resolution has a surprise or two. Drugs and the death of her best friend, a new guy in town, FBI investigation, secrets (lots of secrets) - all make for good reading. I wasn't bored at any point during the story! Plus there are lots of themes to discuss: drug use/abuse in Native cultures and on reservations, how to deal with the death of a friend, how to survive being part of two cultures, sports culture, spirituality, secrets, being part of a community, love and betrayal, and so much more.
“It’s hard to explain what it’s like being so connected to everyone and everything here...yet feeling that no one ever sees the whole me.”
My small quibble is keeping the characters straight - her brother's friends, the hockey guys kind of ran together for me and the Elders kind of blurred together. Even though both those 'groups' played important parts, I either needed a more detailed introduction when they first appeared or some strong personality trait to hang my memory on. I gradually got it; it's not a huge problem.
Rich in detail about the Ojibwe (Great Lakes tribe in MI), the BEST part of the book is the immersion in her Native tribal life. I absolutely loved learning about the traditions, beliefs, political hierarchy and connection to nature, etc. that was shown throughout the story. Again, it was woven in so skillfully that it wasn't pasted on or added for effect, but rather was an integral part of who Daunis is. Loved that.
Highly recommended! Be sure and watch for this book in March - you'll want to pick it up.