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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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I’m not very into politics. I have a tendency to stay out of strongly political conversations. But when Netgalley emailed me about this one, I was intrigued by the point of view of a girl smack dab in the middle of all of this. I decided to check it out and I’m glad I did!
In The Tyrant’s Daughter, Laila along with her six year old brother and mother have fled their home after the murder of her father. In the aftermath, she deals with grief about her father and tries to acclimate to American life. First of all, it’s really interesting seeing what she thought of everything in America because it is a major culture shock. The girl assigned to take her around at school and who gradually becomes her friend, Emmy, earns the immediate reactionary label of “whore” from Laila. All that skin showing is a drastic change for Laila, along with a thousand other things she comes across in school. Laila tries to adjust and fit in, but it’s difficult and despite how war torn her home country is, she still misses her home.
It’s interesting to see her ideals and thoughts about her old life and old customs shift. Things she learns changes the things she thought she knew. It was especially thought provoking as she starts to read news and articles about her father. He was her father to her, stern but loving and a king in her eyes. She defends him agains the title of “dictator” when she first hears Emmy call him that and doesn’t want to believe any of the ugly things he may have done. She’s forced to open her eyes to the truth about her past and it’s really interesting seeing how she struggles to juggle the two opposing images she has of him. He clearly loved his family but he was also responsible for so many deaths and fighting and how can those two things come from one man? It’s a unique point of view that we get from Laila as she tries to see the truth in her past. It makes you really think, like how would I be able to grapple with this dichotomy??
It was also interesting how hard of a time she had with friendships because it’s something foreign to her. She never had that before and she doesn’t quite know what to do with it or how to be a friend. There’s also a sweet romance with a fellow classmate. It wasn’t the focus by any means — that’s not what this story is about — but to me, I think it really shows how hard it was for her to try to fit in.
I think this book did an amazing job portraying this story – based on real events, with a personal touch that really makes you think about the people involved. I’m glad I read this!