Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley
If you aren't tempted to read this story based on the cover art alone, I don't know if we can be friends. It's stunning and fresh for YA. Regardless of your opinion, you should absolutely read this book. The Obamas and Reece Witherspoon agree with me.
Daunis Fontaine straddles two worlds; her mother is a Fontaine born of white, wealthy parents, her father a Firekeeper born of the Ojibwe tribe. She lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the town of Sault Ste. Marie, just a stone's throw away from Canada. It's known for hockey, the Chippewa reservation, Sugar Island, and Lake Michigan's shores. Daunis loves both sides of her family but suffers equal prejudice. She's an unenrolled tribal member while on the reservation, and while in town, the hint of racism toward her tribe is evident.
Daunis just decided to stay home for college to be close to her mother, who takes care of her grandmother since she suffered a stroke at Daunis's high school graduation party. The only bright spot is she'll be with her best friend Lily instead of the University of Michigan studying to be a doctor. To keep busy this summer, she agrees to help one of the new hockey players on her brother Levi's team. A hockey player herself, Daunis can't resist the tug of the ice, the workouts, and the early morning runs. She falls into a routine of hanging out with Jamie, helping out her elders on the reservation, and her mother in town. That is until a tragedy shakes her world. Soon Darius finds herself involved in an FBI investigation uncovering a meth ring in the Sault, putting herself and others in danger. Her knowledge of science (she's ridiculously smart), the people, and the culture in both worlds make her a perfect undercover source for the FBI.
While the mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat, the culture of her people will keep you equally riveted. Daunis is the perfect tour guide, gently explaining every facet of the reservation and the Ojibwe's beliefs. Her knowledge is from an obvious place of respect for her people, the land, and traditions. Boulley hails from this same town, and it's evident in her writing, making it authentic, believable, and rich. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Although the page count might cause some to hesitate, it feels concise. She packs such a punch in the dialogue, characterization, Daunis's observations, and the Ojibwe people's plight. Specifically their women. Daunis is strong, intelligent, and loyal to a fault. The decisions she has to make to help her community are terrible sometimes, and I couldn't help but feel for her. I'm not sure how realistic the undercover FBI portions of the story are, but after reading an interview of Angeline Boulley's, I think I can be persuaded otherwise.
While this wasn't a favorite audio of mine, the publishers made the correct decision in getting an indigenous narrator. I appreciated the correct pronunciation of the language and felt that she (Isabella Star LaBlanc) captured Daunis and her straightforward, no-nonsense narration. The audio was a March freebie from Libro.