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In The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, Daunis, a biracial, 18-year-old Ojibwe woman, goes undercover with the FBI to investigate her community after her uncle’s death. The FBI are investigating drug trafficking on the Ojibwe reservation, and they believe Daunis can help them solve the case. As the FBI intensifies their investigation, Daunis uncovers some deadly family secrets about the mysterious drug that is killing people in her community.

Daunis is not an official member of the Anishinaabe tribe, but she shares her famous hockey-playing father with a half-brother. I loved Daunis’ feisty personality and her determination to stay true to herself and her Native American community. She is torn between plans for a future with the FBI undercover agent she meets and going to college to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. The romance is compelling and the mystery plot intertwines successfully too, which kept me reading chapter after chapter. 

Throughout the novel, Boulley describes various Ojibwe traditions and gives the reader an opportunity to learn about the Sault Ste Marie community to which she belongs. I love the way Boulley explores issues of cultural identity, providing insightful commentary on racism in the United States as well. For example, Boulley highlights several important issues including the increasing number of violent murders against Indigenous women and the problem of drug addiction in Native communities. She also highlights the jingle dancing tradition and the Firekeeper’s traditions of honoring the dead. I also enjoyed how the author used passages in her Algonquian language.

Boulley’s goal of writing about her community is realized with this remarkable novel. The cover art is phenomenal, combining imagery from the novel and Ojibwe traditions. While the book is considered an older YA, I would recommend it for high school or crossover adult readers. The Firekeeper’s Daughter is being produced by the Obamas’ production company for Netflix. 

Megan Fink Brevard

Megan Fink Brevard, a school librarian, began her career in children’s book publishing. She is an active member of YALSA and has served on national award committees such as the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature 2018 and the YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2012. She has also served on the Teen Read Week and the Best Books for Young Adults committees.