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.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 304
Reviewed by Ellie, age 17
Turn on the TV today and I’m 99.9% certain you’ll see something regarding the Middle East. The US media covers the wars and unrest going on there continuously, but how often are the people covered instead of the bombs? In The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson, we get to see the other side of the story.
The Tyrant’s Daughter follows the life of Laila, the daughter of an assassinated Middle Eastern dictator who is forced to flee when a coup forces her family out of power. Escaping to America, Laila must learn to assimilate herself to American culture while taking care of her mother and brother, worrying about how they will survive in America, and piecing together the history of her past.
Something I find absolutely fascinating about this book is that it was inspired by a myriad of actual events. Instead of being a singular account or a fully fictional story, this book is a mix of fiction and history, blended beautifully into a thought-provoking story of hardship, new beginnings, and the balance between the old and the new.
Laila is a fascinating character. She represents a fantastic clash of morals: the understated beauty and modesty of the Middle East meshed with the excess and in-your-face openness of the United States. As a character, she opens up entirely new realms of thought: what is considered appropriate? What is considered oppressive? The questions come pouring in, and they don’t always have answers (which I think is a good thing).
The novel also brings up the themes of moral politics, cultural ignorance, school friendships, and more. However, this isn’t just a question-provoking book: it is also a captivating portrait of a young Middle Eastern girl and her struggle to find her place in a whole new culture. This theme, I think, is relatable for anyone who reads it: we’ve all felt like we’re on the outs at some point.
The technical aspects of this book were impressive as well. The dialogue, characters, and conflicts all keep the reader’s attention, complementing an almost-perfect plot line.
I think it is pretty obvious that I enjoyed this book. It is both relatable and fresh, classic and innovative. Through Laila’s eyes, a fascinating story of pain and perseverance is told, one that I found to be wholly satisfying. I would recommend this book to any teenager looking for a novel regarding current events, the Middle East, or simply a contemporary tale of struggle and growing up.
This book hit shelves February of 2014!
Buy Hardcover | $17.99
Ellie, age 17