Rhonda Runningcrane, a Blackfoot teenager, feels she has nothing to live for until she hears about a peaceful movement to preserve clean water for her community.
Set on a fictional reservation called Standing Stone, the novel borrows heavily from actual events surrounding the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Suicide, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, alcoholism, diabetes, drugs, and murder appear in the first eight pages, and this bleak picture of life on the reservation is only partially addressed with the transformation of the main character into an environmental activist. Robinson (Choctaw/Cherokee) (Lands of Our Ancestors Teacher's Guide, 2017, etc.) uses the presence of a female elder and a mechanically savvy uncle as role models for Rhonda, but her development is limited to her relationship to traditional ways. A bit too short to paint a contemporary picture of Rhonda or dig into the historic roots of the troubles Native youth face in America today, the novel relies on a cultural script with few surprises. Even so, the story is an important one as it highlights the relationship between Native oppression and the extractive industries in the United States. In acknowledging the non-Native allies who stood alongside the Native protesters, the novel builds a bridge between communities, reminding readers that we are all affected by the damage being done to the Earth.
A book for reluctant readers that highlights the heroism of young activists. (Fiction. 12-18)