Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

  • Warrior Girl Unearthed
  • by Angeline Boulley
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
  • Release date: May 2, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781250766588

Perry Firekeeper-Birch would far rather spend her summer fishing, which is in stark contrast to her college-bound twin’s plan to participate in the Kinomaage program’s internship. Perry’s plans for a “Summer Slack” are abruptly ended when she wrecks the twins’ Jeep trying to avoid a mother bear and her cub. To pay for the repairs, Perry’s Aunt Daunis requires her to participate in the internship program and hand over all earnings. What starts as a punishment quickly morphs into a fascinating internship as Perry navigates the NAGPRA regulations surrounding the recovery of the remains and funerary artifacts of Indigenous ancestors. 

Part heist, part ethical dilemma, part deep dive into tribal politics and issues, this book has importance beyond its audience appeal. Those who fell in love with Daunis in Firekeeper’s Daughter will welcome her role in this companion novel.  Perry is a fully formed character in her own right and is surrounded by characters who are equally well developed.  The family and relational dynamics are universally recognizable, inviting readers to feel the pain of the desecration Indigenous people’s ancestors in the name of “science” on a much more visceral level. Broken into week-long segments, an epigraph highlighting the real life struggle and injustice Indigenous people face in getting those remains and objects returned introduces the challenge Perry (and Cooper Turtle) will face in their quest.  Boulley also seamlessly weaves the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as well as the loopholes surrounding the prosecution of domestic abuse perpetrated on them into the plot made more compelling by a strong female protagonist and evidence so great that readers don’t require an explicit message to feel the injury.  Boulley also brings the “receipts” by ending with “Cooper’s List of Repatriation Resources” which further allows readers to judge the inequities for themselves.

This is a solid mystery/adventure that will appeal to fans of true crime and history. Give this to readers of Boulley’s first book, Firekeeper’s Daughter (although they won’t have had to read it in order to appreciate this one) or readers who liked Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter, or the Agatha mysteries collaboration by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson.

-Jodi Kruse

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: November 15, 2022
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March 28, 2023
Release Date: March 14, 2023

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 Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: