Floyd Twofeathers, a Cree teen, vents his frustrations in his secret journal, creating stories to alleviate the angst and confusion he experiences while living on the (fictional) Bitter Lake Reserve.
Suicides have become rampant, and things get even worse when a group of teen girls follows through on a suicide pact posted on social media. It is after this that Floyd feels the urgency to talk with his father, the hereditary tribal chief, to offer help to heal his community. Floyd’s mother, a medicine woman, also urges her husband to work with Floyd, but Floyd’s father, who is overwhelmed with the community’s problems, rejects them both, instead inviting a white actor to the reserve to make a movie in hopes of raising much-needed money. Meanwhile, Floyd hangs out with his friends, going fishing and playing video games even as he rallies them in support of their community and courts a beautiful young woman. This slim book struggles to maintain a consistent tone. What begins as a story addressing the serious impact of suicide in First Nations communities (including a lengthy, potentially triggering flashback to an attempted suicide early in the story) swerves jarringly to a scene in which Floyd’s parents kiss and cuddle as if they had not just learned of the newest suicides. Likewise Floyd’s high jinks with his friends and his instant infatuation with a friend’s beautiful sister (who’s described with stereotyped cliché as “exotic,” with “almond-shaped eyes” and “full ruby red lips”) distract from the suicide plotline. Furthermore, locating the story on a fictional reserve has a homogenizing effect on what is a varied and heterogeneous nation.
A missed opportunity to fully engage with a deeply serious issue. (Fiction. 12-16)