by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Thanks to Partner NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for the digital ARC of Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on Tuesday, March 16.
Daunis Fontaine is an athlete and former hockey player, Levi’s half-sister, bi-racial, an unenrolled member of the Ojibwe tribe, a daughter and granddaughter, a best friend. She’s also loyal and stubborn and tough, dedicated to learning her tribe’s history but equally committed to the other, white and wealthy side of her family, including her mother.
Angeline Boulley’s YA novel Firekeeper’s Daughter is as multilayered as its protagonist. It’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller, a mystery novel, a coming of age story, a romance. It addresses the multifaceted nature of Daunis’s identity without simplifying her or the varied communities to which she belongs.
At the outset of the novel, Daunis is preparing to go to college—already, her life is not quite what she envisioned. Daunis has changed her college plans and decided to attend the local college instead of going away to school. Her mother is fragile after both the recent death of her brother from an overdose and Daunis’s grandmother’s stroke. Daunis is unwilling to leave her mother to deal with her grandmother’s illness alone. She is comforted by the fact that she will attend school with her best friend, Lily, also an unenrolled Anishinaabe.
Daunis lives in a hockey town, and she used to be right in the middle of that culture, one of the few women on the high school hockey team. She no longer plays, but her half-brother Levi is on the Supes, the local hockey team for up-and-comers hoping for a career. When Jamie joins the hockey team, things get interesting: Daunis is determined to resist her attraction for Jamie—she doesn’t want to join the group of women who follow their boyfriends on the hockey team—but she’s definitely interested.
Life is already complicated for Daunis, and then something happens that changes everything. Daunis’s world is upended, and she has to reconsider all of the things she thought she knew.
This book is such an accomplishment, juggling so much effortlessly and never losing forward momentum, even as it’s patient in developing a portrait of this character, her culture, and her place. Daunis is fiercely committed to her community, to connecting with her Ojibwe heritage but also very aware that she comes from two cultures. She has to confront the forces that impact her community: the power dynamics, the violence, and the corruption that threaten her world. This book made me think, it made me feel (yes, there was some ugly crying), and it made me curious to learn more. Firekeeper’s Daughter is such a revelation, and I can’t believe it’s Angeline Boulley’s debut. What a book.
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