How come they didn't make Young Adult (YA) novels like this when I was growing up?? I swear, every YA novel I read had the same old protagonist: usually a young white girl, striving to get the attention of some good looking high school boy who doesn't realize she exists, or stories of girls falling in love with vampires (let the high school girl clichés run wild.) Not Firekeeper's Daughter. Daunis is not one to mess around and does not let boys, or fear, get in her way. Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley is a great story of persistence, compassion, and uncovering the truth, no matter the cost.
Eighteen year old, Daunis Fontaine, is used to not fitting the mold. She is half white, half Ojibwe, and has never really fit in on either side of her family, except she relates so strongly to her Ojibwe heritage. Daunis dreams of college and playing hockey, but her dreams are sidetracked as young adults in her community are found dead of apparent overdoses. Daunis finds herself in the middle of the FBI investigation involving a meth ring that is taking over her town and nearby reservation. As she searches for the truth, Daunis prioritizes her community and the people affected, while the FBI focuses solely on the criminal charges. Daunis finds herself faced with making tough decisions about protecting the ones she loves and putting a stop to the drugs that are killing her tribe.
Note: I do not read much Young Adult, but recognize that they need reviewed differently. You simply cannot compare a YA novel to a literary fiction novel. Because of that, YA novels do lack the substance that I crave in literature, but are also a fun departure from all that heaviness.
Daunis is a strong character lead and I loved that about her. She sets a great example for young girls, both from her determination and her understanding and compassion for indigenous culture and traditions. I loved learning more about her tribe as she worked with the FBI to uncover the mysterious drug ring that was killing her friends and family. FD is written from Daunis' point of view and almost feels like a stream of consciousness. The reader gets inside her head and fully understands her thought process as she participates as a confidential informant with the FBI.
Firekeeper's Daughter is the perfect mix of suspense, young love, and indigenous history that makes it completely unique. Thinking back to the YA books I read as a teen, nothing came close to being so historically impactful as Firekeeper's Daughter. What hit me the hardest was the theme of missing, murdered, and sexually assaulted indigenous women-both how prevalent it is and the lack of justice. I highly recommend you read the author's note, as she gives statistics that will boil your blood. What happens to Daunis is not a one off. It happens all the time on reservations and it is appalling. To be an indigenous woman, is to live in constant fear that something could happen to you and authorities will barely bat an eye. I have been reading more literature (both fiction and nonfiction) written by indigenous authors and this is a reoccurring theme. More must be done to keep these women safe and to put punish perpetrators.
Content warning: death, murder, rape, racism towards indigenous people (use of slurs and microaggressions), drug abuse
"I'm the only person looking at the whole person, not just the wound."
"I'm reminded that our Elders are our greatest resource, embodying our culture and community. Their stories connect us to our language, medicines, land, clans, songs, and traditions. They are bridge between the Before and the Now, guiding those of us who will carry on in the Future. We honor our heritage and our people, those who are alive and those who've passed on. That's important because it keeps the ones we love with us."