Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (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.
Thoughts on The Tyrant's Daughter
I received an email from NetGalley about The Tyrant's Daughter, and I was intrigued enough to immediately hop on and download a copy. The cover is striking, and the description really caught my attention. While I usually have a general idea of what's going on in the world, I'm definitely not an expert on politics or global events. And yet I really loved the idea of a young adult book with this unique yet relevant subject matter.
The book opens after Laila has moved to the United States with her mother and younger brother. They've fled an unnamed country in the Middle East after the death of her father in a coup that was led by Laila's uncle. She grew up believing that her family was royalty - her father a king just like his father before him. Seeking safety in the U.S., Laila soon learns that the rest of the world doesn't view her family quite as kindly. Televisions and online articles tell a different story - Laila's father was a dictator.
The Tyrant's Daughter portrays Laila's struggles once she arrives in the United States. She's beginning to see her family, her history, and her country through different eyes. I really loved how Carleson portrayed Laila's experiences with high school, friends, boys and trying to fit in while she also tries to remain true to what she was raised to believe. I've read a lot of young adult that is essentially a coming-of-age story, but this felt so unique because of the politics involved in Laila's story.
I think what I found most impressive about The Tyrant's Daughter is that it's a global story told on a personal level. Carleson's books humanizes the conflict in the Middle East. It puts a face and a voice to something so large and complex. Laila's father was a dictator, but he was also a father. It's easy for someone on the news to seem like an object - something other than human. But, no matter how evil, people are layered and complex creatures. The Tyrant's Daughter doesn't vilify Middle Easterners. Instead, it offered perspective and highlighted the people behind the politics. The main characters in this book felt so real, and I really appreciated how Carleson made me think about the world around me.
To be completely honest, I was caught off guard by how much I enjoyed this book! I really loved Laila as a narrator. She was sharp, observant and smart. Her struggle to reconcile what she knew about her family and father with what the world said about them was just captivating. And the way she looked at American culture? I thought it was really thought-provoking without ever becoming preachy. Culture plays a role in The Tyrant's Daughter because it leads to growth and self-discovery, but I loved that the stakes were higher than in a typical YA book. It's not just about falling in love or choosing a college - Laila's is just a normal teenage girl whose problems are amplified because they are important on a global level.
There's so much depth to The Tyrant's Daughter! I loved the writing - it was readable and felt authentic. It truly put me in Laila's shoes. The pacing was spot on, and it kept me hooked while I was reading. The ending wraps up a little bit quickly, but that's such a minor complaint overall. I honestly don't think I've ever read anything quite like this book, and I'm so impressed by Carleson's book. It's the story of one girl, caught in the crosshairs of an international crisis, as she comes to terms with her past and wrestles with what awaits her in the future.
"My brother is the King of Nowhere. This fact doesn't matter to anyone except my family -- a rapidly shrinking circle of people who Used to Be. And, even for us, there are surprisingly few perks. Now we sit in our airless apartment, curtains closed against the outside world, pretending."
*I received a copy of this book from Knopf Books for Young Reads in exchange for a honest review. I was not compensated in any way.