Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C, Carleson

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Published: February 11, 2014 
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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.
My Thoughts
“Perhaps I'll start calling myself The Invisible Queen. Sometimes just having a title helps.”
Riveting in a surreal yet sad way. The Tyrant’s Daughter is a unique Young Adult novel that provides a glimpse of how a teenage Muslim girl handles life’s twists and turns as she flees her war-ridden country to a complicated western world.

Laila, her mother and younger brother Bastian are exiled to the United States by the CIA after her war-ridden country, an undetermined Middle Eastern location, collapses to civil unrest. Her father, who was the leader of the nation, was killed by traitors all in the name of oil interest, power and corruption. As she tries to assimilate to her new world, she struggles with every adjustment. The food, people, education, innuendos are all foreign to her. To top it off, her native country continues to be at war. With hidden agendas played out by her mother, government officials and the opposition, she doesn’t quite know how to navigate to the truth.

The Tyrant's Daughter provides a first person narrative of how a teenage girl that comes from sheltered royality is soon forced to witness what her father's dictatorship cost the people of her country.

First off, I was a bit disappointed how the American teenagers were portrayed in this novel. Ian and Emmy felt a bit shallow when juxtaposed against Laila’s complicated life. The one redeeming element was that these teenagers delivered an alternate truth to Laila on what her father represented when he led their country prior to his assassination. From her findings, she was forced to consider…

“What kind of person doesn't know whether her father was a king or a monster?”
Laila’s story was told in the first person, which is one of my favorite narratives. However, it felt at times that Laila kept a deliberate distance from the reader. I can understand why. It must be quite difficult for a fifteen year old girl to come to grips with her new reality. To go from living a royal life in a war-ridden country to a suburban existence taking buses, attending an American school and resorting to public libraries for a connection to her native country is a lot to navigate through causing confusion and natural distance.

It was a bit sad to see Bastian’s innocent interpretation of his role in his new society. He was raised a prince, and that’s not something easily purged from one day to the next. This transpires in his assimilation at school and home. His innocent actions saddened me.

It was interesting to compare the American teenager Ian to Amir who is from her homeland and suffered from her father’s dictatorship. Not only did this create an internal conflict for Laila, but it forced her to see how different they were from each other. I appreciated the friendship she developed with Amir, ultimately making the innocent betrayal heart breaking.

Overall, The Tyrant’s Daughter is unique and intriguing. Definitely a worthy YA contemporary novel that would satisfy those looking for something different.
3 Snowflakes

2 comments:

  1. I recommend this book to ages 12+. This is a great read with enough teen drama to keep them captivated, while teaching them about another culture a world away.

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