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The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Worth the Read: “The Firekeeper’s Daughter”

Daunis Fontaine, the protagonist of “The Firekeeper’s Daughter,” experiences love, heartbreak and mystery as she becomes a confidential informant to help her community.

Warning: this book contains mentions of drug addiction, sexual assault and murder.

Welcome to the first edition of Worth the Read, where I read books and determine if they are actually worth the read. This week, I read the New York Times bestseller “The Firekeeper’s Daughter” published in 2021 by Angeline Boulley to find out if it’s really what the reviewers say it is.

The plot: It’s Michigan, 2004, and 19 year old Daunis Fontaine is sticking around this year on Sault St. Marie Reservation (Sault is pronounced “soo”). Despite wanting to stay out of trouble, Daunis is suddenly thrust into a world of lies, science and action as she becomes a confidential informant for the FBI to uncover a meth ring in operation within the reservation.


I want to preface my review by mentioning the languages used in the book. Daunis is half Ojibwe from northern Michigan, like Boulley. She regularly blends Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) words with English, which makes understanding what she means confusing, at least at the beginning. Nevertheless, by the end of the book her diction is pretty easy to understand.

The book is told in the first person. We’re given some details at the very beginning, but much more is revealed later on. While some might find the constant references to these events annoying and vague, (for example, constantly referencing “the accident” and never telling the reader what it means until midway through the story) I see it as her slowly letting us into her world. After all, she’s the one telling us the story; it makes sense that she wouldn’t immediately dive into her deepest traumas.

Overall, a 9.5/10 for readability.

The Content

The characterization is excellent; it never feels like any of the characters or their dynamics fall into one trope or stereotype. An example of this would be Daunis’ relationship with Jamie, the new boy in town who’s actually an undercover FBI agent. While she does fall in love with him throughout their time together, she never lets her relationship with him affect her personal values or her job as an informant.

While Jamie plays a huge role in the novel, Boulley also highlights the importance of Daunis’ community. The time the novel spends with characters on the reservation builds the community expertly, showing that they are people that Daunis can lean on and look to for support and guidance. They are people who, even if they don’t necessarily act like they like her, they still care for her and will do anything to help her.

Daunis’ growth as a character was amazing to watch. Daunis starts out the book in a “bubble” as she’s still a child who has a lot of growing up to do. By the end of the story, she becomes a mature and strong woman, forced to look at the harsh realities of life. I really loved seeing her grow up.

Boulley also doesn’t neglect social issues. In the novel, Daunis applies for tribal enrollment, which shows how some on the reservation don’t see her as “Indian enough” due to having a white mother. There’s also a clear acknowledgment of the privilege that some characters have over others throughout the story, such as Jamie’s privilege as a man, or Daunis’ privilege as a white-passing person compared to her nieces and aunt. However, having some privilege doesn’t exempt her from still experiencing struggles of being multiracial and a woman. Yes, Daunis helped the FBI, but they won’t help her legally because of her identity and legal status as an Ojibwe woman. The most important aspect of the dialogue and characterization is that this feels plausible and isn’t included to be preachy, but rather helps move the novel and the characters along, making their dynamics more realistic.

Overall, for excellent characterization and social commentary, 10/10.

The Writing

I love the way the story is told. We get repeated italicized sections where Daunis replays the moment that inspired her to become an informant for the FBI, revealing more and more with each flashback. This makes her situation more realistic. As time passes, the shock of the situation wears off and she can see exactly how the event happened clearer and clearer.

My only criticism is the occasionally “preachy” moments. As Daunis remembers a high-action scene for example, she takes a few moments to preach about how helpful the Elders are for the community. I couldn’t help but be frustrated with this choice. To me, this comes off as lazy writing and ruins the build-up that the story had and the immersion of the scene. It treats the reader like they’re stupid and can’t see the theme that Boulley carefully built over the course of the story.

Overall, a 9.5/10 for the writing.

The Results

Readability: 9.5/10
Content: 10/10
Writing: 9.5/10

Overall, these lead to an average score of 9.67/10. Definitely worth the read. It’s a heavy novel, dealing with themes of drug addiction, death, grieving, sexual assault and murder, but it’s still an incredibly bittersweet and great book. The reviewers got it right with this book; it’s a delightful blend of mystery and romance sprinkled with science, and once you pick it up you won’t be able to put it down.

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