Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: Drug abuse, gun violence, rape (depicted, fade-to-black), microaggressions against indigenous people, vomiting, drug overdose, murder, kidnapping
Taking place on the border between the U.S. and Canada, this thriller follows Daunis Fontaine, a biracial, dorky, 18-year-old who deferred college enrollment to take care of her mother and grandmother. A newcomer captures Daunis’ attention and hidden truths come to light when she witnesses a murder. The body count starts climbing and the source of harrowing trouble might hit closer to home than initially expected.
Heart-breaking as it is beautifully written, Boulley presents a thriller that’s as much about the power of community and honoring those around you as it is about the terrible ways the drug trade ravages communities.
Daunis is such a fantastic main character. She’s dorky, she’s involved with those around her, and looks after those she loves. But she also has moments where she lashes out in anger and shows this complexity. I particularly enjoyed the bits where her Ojibwe culture and contemporary scientific knowledge intersected. It helped establish Daunis as a character and also informs the decisions she makes throughout the plot.
This thriller also layers so many facets of the drug crisis, paying careful, specific attention to the communities affected and those members that participate. Except for two characters, I’d say everyone involved is treated with empathy and grace. They all have their own stories within the greater plot to tell. Boulley balances them all with finesse, while ensuring that this story very much belongs to Daunis.
Overall, the sense of community is like a weighted blanket. It worked almost as a secondary character all its own, even coming to the rescue at several key points. In addition, the conversations around sex and autonomy were unlike any I read in other books, with women being so casual about protection and general sexual education. Which makes certain scenes that much more gut-wrenching.
A mild spoiler, but in addition to drug abuse and drug trafficking, this book also handles the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. For those who might be triggered by violence against women all kinds, I am letting you know in my review so that you can be prepared going in. The tribute to it at the end of the book is achingly beautiful, adding to the tears the reader is left with at the end.