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Book review: Warrior Girl Unearthed

YA fiction

by Angeline Boulley

Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, was one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, so I came to read Warrior Girl Unearthed with high expectations. When the story was a little slow getting started, I thought, Ah, well. It’s common for a sophomore effort not to measure up to the breakthrough novel. But I was wrong.

A native american girl's face stares defiantly at the viewer.Warrior Girl Unearthed, like Boulley’s debut, is at once a deep dive into Native American culture, a coming-of-age tale, and a compelling mystery. This time around, the stakes are even higher, if possible. Set in the same milieu as Firekeeper’s Daughter, this novel focuses on 16-year-old Perry Firekeeper-Birch. She was always the laid-back twin, the troublemaker, the best fisher. But a summer internship program thrusts her into the heart of the struggle for tribes to reclaim the bones and sacred objects of their ancestors from museums and private collectors who would profit from them.

While Perry struggles to find ways to reclaim these valued objects for her Anishinaabe tribe, she also finds herself circling around a growing mystery, as the number of indigenous women going missing continues to rise. Impulsive Perry takes matters into her own hands, aided by her overachieving twin, some close friends, and a charming new boy with a rigid moral code.

In this beautifully written, layered mystery, Boulley does a masterful job of providing a window into Anishinaabe culture and lifestyle, while keeping her protagonist a relatable, modern teen girl. Perry struggles with all the usual teen stuff — crushes, sibling rivalry, impulse control — while facing the larger, more serious issues confronting her people. Through it all, her Warrior Girl nature sustains her and helps her through some tough choices. Warrior Girl Unearthed is a deeply satisfying read, sure to be embraced by young (and old) readers.

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