Author: Angeline Boulley
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Length: 496 pages
Read Date(s): June 30, 2021 to July 4, 2021
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
This book was an enjoyable slow burn read that kept me interested until the very end. The setting and characters were well-developed and multi-layered, which became more and more evident the further into the book I got. The setting, especially, is where this book shined the most. The mystery of the plot was fine, but it was a bit predictable. The ending left me a little disappointed in how it was all resolved, but I also really liked that it kept the book grounded in realism, especially when it comes to how indigenous individuals are often treated and the flaws of the justice system.
My favorite thing about this book was the immersion in contemporary indigenous culture and language. I feel like I learned so much from this book about different native customs and how they continue to be practiced in modern times. The author did an excellent job of weaving them into the narrative and bringing this community to life in such a vivid way. The use of indigenous language throughout the book was beautiful, and I loved getting to learn to read a few words even if I will probably never be able to pronounce them correctly.
The story covered a lot of thought-provoking and important topics. The ongoing impact of colonialism on native communities was explored here. The book also focused on the destructive nature of meth and the havoc it can wreak on entire towns. The author used the character of Daunis to explore the impact of being biracial on one’s identity and the struggle biracial individuals can face in being accepted. I found Daunis’s thoughts on this topic to be enlightening and interesting. During the story, Daunis also faced dealing with grief and sexual assault, which highlighted the problem of violence against indigenous women that exists in the real world. Reading some of the content was difficult at times because of the themes discussed, but the author handled working with them deftly and left me thinking deeply about them even after I finished reading the book.
As I mentioned briefly above, the main characters were all well-developed and multi-layered. Information slowly came out about them all throughout the book. I think the revelations probably came out a bit too slow sometimes, especially during the first half of the book. But I did enjoy the overall mysterious aura each character exhibited. Daunis’s character provided an exploration for some interesting and powerful themes, but her character was also incredibly dull at times. Her arc of processing her grief and previous negative experiences with men while coming to terms with her identity was somewhat compelling, but I didn’t feel she was that different at the end of the book to where she was at the beginning. There also seemed to be an overabundance of side characters in this novel. I had trouble keeping some of them straight and honestly didn’t remember who one of the murder victims was at first because they were introduced with many other characters in a blink and you miss it fashion. On a brighter note, my favorite characters in the novel were the elders. They were often absolutely hilarious and ended up being completely badass in the end.
I don’t really have much to say about the romance in the book because I didn’t really care about it that much. It was integral to the plot and served its purpose fine in that regard, but I didn’t really feel a spark between the characters. The best part about the romance to me was how it ended. I’m not going to spoil it, but it was the perfect ending considering where both the characters were at that point in their lives.
Overall, I enjoyed a lot about this book. The setting in an indigenous community and mysterious aura were highlights along with many of the themes tackled by the narrative. It felt glacially slow at times, though, and probably would have benefited from being 50-100 pages shorter. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.