Warrior Girl, Unearthed
Henry Holt & Co.
Published May 2, 2023
About Warrior Girl, Unearthed
From the New York Times bestselling author of Firekeeper’s Daughter comes a thrilling YA mystery about a Native teen who must find a way to bring an ancestor home to her tribe.
Perry Firekeeper-Birch was ready for her Summer of Slack but instead, after a fender bender that was entirely not her fault, she’s stuck working to pay back her Auntie Daunis for repairs to the Jeep.
Thankfully she has the other outcasts of the summer program, Team Misfit Toys, and even her twin sister Pauline. Together they ace obstacle courses, plan vigils for missing women in the community, and make sure summer doesn’t feel so lost after all.
But when she attends a meeting at a local university, Perry learns about the “Warrior Girl”, an ancestor whose bones and knife are stored in the museum archives, and everything changes. Perry has to return Warrior Girl to her tribe. Determined to help, she learns all she can about NAGPRA, the federal law that allows tribes to request the return of ancestral remains and sacred items. The university has been using legal loopholes to hold onto Warrior Girl and twelve other Anishinaabe ancestors’ remains, and Perry and the Misfits won’t let it go on any longer.
Using all of their skills and resources, the Misfits realize a heist is the only way to bring back the stolen artifacts and remains for good. But there is more to this repatriation than meets the eye as more women disappear and Pauline’s perfectionism takes a turn for the worse. As secrets and mysteries unfurl, Perry and the Misfits must fight to find a way to make things right – for the ancestors and for their community.
I’ll admit I didn’t really know much about this book when I asked to review it. Mostly, I knew the author’s name, because her debut, FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER was all anyone was talking about for a while when it came out in 2021. So I wanted to read it on the strength of that praise.
And… all I can say is that no one who was blown away by Angeline Boulley’s writing exaggerated. I mean, wow.
The story has a lot of moving parts. Perry and her sister are doing this summer internship (Perry only under duress). Girls keep going missing from their community. Perry begins learning about laws and processes governing the way that ancestral remains are identified and (ideally) returned to tribes and decides she must help return the remains of a woman knows as Warrior Girl. There’s the possibility of romance for Perry with one of the other interns.
So there’s a lot going on. The beginning builds a little bit slowly. I remember not being sure what the story was going to really be about. It took some time for me to feel like I got oriented within the story.
Once I did, though, the story took off. Roadblocks, and setbacks, and raised stakes, and twists kept coming one after another. And every single one seemed to pull the story more into focus.
All those pieces came together to show a more complete picture, and all of it illustrated a powerful theme about the value of life and the need to honor community and ancestry.
I loved this book. I’ve already got a copy of FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER, and I am really excited to read it. Some of the minor characters in this book are in FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER, so I’m curious what blanks reading that one will fill in. I hope there are more stories about Sugar Island and Perry’s family in the works, because I will definitely read them.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Perry and most other characters are Ojibwe citizens. Perry’s grandmother was Black.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty infrequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. Perry wonders who her sister and her aunt are having sex with. A person Perry is close to reveals that she was raped by a man Perry knows by name.
References to Ojibwe tribal ceremonies, histories, and traditions.
Situations of peril. Girls in the community have been going missing. One girl’s body is found. Someone discovers a murdered man’s body. Another girl appears to have died from a fatal injury. A boy and a man both suffer head injuries. A girl describes how she was tied up and escaped.
Perry’s twin sister eats gummies with marijuana in them to manage her anxiety. References to adults drinking alcohol.
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