The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
From Goodreads: From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.
Review: 3 out of 5 Stars
I received a copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was published February 11, 2014, by Knopf Books for Young Readers.
I struggled with whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. It had many strong points, but ultimately a few weak spots that took me outside of the story.
In this novel, Laila is a teenage girl who, along with her mother and young brother, has just emigrated from her country in the Middle East to the United Stares following the assassination of her father. Her father was a dictator in this unnamed Middle Eastern country and her uncle has since taken over. Her brother is considered by many to be the rightful leader. Her mother is a schemer and manipulator who is working almost every side of the political spectrum to get her son back into his country and back into power. And this leaves Laila unsure of her spot in the world, either in her home country or here in the United States. At her new school in the US, she makes friends, meets some boys, and gets a taste of what it is like to be a teenager in the United States. She also befriends Amir, a boy from her own home country. This book follows her journey in the United States, as well as toward learning more about her own history.
A good deal of this book is about Laila coming to terms with her new life in the US. Seeing our country through her eyes was definitely eye-opening. I most enjoyed the parts of this book that explored her time at school and difficulty making friends and adjusting to the differences between her life in the U.S. and in her previous home. Also, the parts of this book where she discovers that her father was not truly known as “king,” but as dictator absolutely wrecked me. In that way, I thought the author did an excellent job of humanizing a conflict that can sometimes seem more than a world away.
I also liked Laila as a character, though thought she wasn’t always a believable teenager. But I thought most of the rest of the characters (possibly with Amir aside) were pretty one-dimensional. You had a preppy friend, a teenage boy, other high school characters – they just weren’t given full color to me, and I didn’t care about them that much as a result. I also felt like the end was very rushed and wanted more time to deal with the fall-out of the ending. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I felt a lack of closure at the end and was left unsatisfied.
Despite some one-sided characters and the feeling of needing more resolution from this novel, I am glad to have read this novel. It definitely provided a new and different voice in the YA market and helps to give a voice to a very under-represented group in YA literature. If nothing else, I think reading this helped me walk in someone else’s shoes for a time, and in many ways that alone makes it worth reading.