Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Cover Art

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) / Macmillan
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
ISBN: 978-1250766564 

In 2004 Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine is navigating her complicated identity as the daughter of a white French mother and an Ojibwe father. Though she’s delayed college due to her grandmother’s ill health, Daunis has her family, her best friend, and the cute new boy on her brother’s hockey team to pass the time. But then tragedy strikes in the form of a deadly new drug that rocks her close-knit community. Using her love of science and her understanding of traditional Anishinaabe medicine, Daunis agrees to go undercover for the FBI, but what she finds cuts close to the bone, and Daunis will have to draw on all her strengths to face the hardest truths.

Books by and about Indigenous people are still far too rare in YA literature, and Firekeeper’s Daughter is a portrait of modern Ojibwe life and culture in all its complexity. The reader is immersed and invested in this story through the first person point-of-view narration of Daunis Fontaine, who is smart, observant, thoughtful, and–like many teens–conflicted about her place in her world. Firekeeper’s Daughter is a gripping crime thriller and a nuanced coming-of-age story, and readers will be glued to Daunis’ side through the thick of it. 

Pair with other recent books about Indigenous youth like Elatsoe, in which another teen girl investigates a murder (albeit one in a supernatural version of the world), or Apple: Skin to the Core, which explores the author’s identity as a Native American in a white world. Amber Lynn Natusch’s Hometown Antihero series of young adult novels feature a teen girl who goes undercover to clear her father’s name. And in anticipation of the upcoming Obama-produced Netflix adaptation of Firekeeper’s Daughter, recommend to viewers of slow-burn, small-town murder mysteries like Fargo, Ozark, and Sharp Objects

Kali Olson

Other Nominated Titles

  • The Gilded Ones (Deathless, vol. 1) by Namina Forna (February 9, 2021)
  • Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall (September 15, 2020)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are  available on The Hub.