Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been intrigued by novels about the Middle East. The Tyrant’s Daughter is about Laila and her family, recent refugees to the United States after her father’s death in their home nation. Their homeland is never defined, but her father was the leader (read: dictator) of the country. Killed in a coup, Laila and her family have no choice but to flee to safety, in America. 

Upon arrival, Laila is forced to confront the harsh reality of her father’s regime and her old way of life. All she knew of her father was that he was her dad, the man who loved her. But in America, she learned awful news of his many crimes against humanity and his brutal methods of enforcing his agenda. All of this is nearly too much for Laila to handle, especially when she meets a friend’s crippled, mutilated little sister, innocently injured while at school, at the hands of Laila’s father. Trying to assimilate into American culture is, obviously, extremely difficult, and one of the most striking scenes I recall from the novel is when Laila’s school has a bomb threat. The American students rejoice in the occasion, seeing it as a free day off, something that would never actually happen. For Laila though, the fear is all too real and familiar. 

After a while in the U.S., Laila discovers that her mother’s motives were not merely for survival - she’s working with the CIA to bring down the new ruler of her country, her uncle. Laila is sick of the betrayal and the lies, and vows to not let her parents rule her life any longer. 

I did love the novel and I particularly loved the contrast between life in Laila’s home country and life in the United States. I loved Laila’s commentary on how over-the-top things are in America. There was one scene in which she described how cereal in her home land was a luxury; in America, it’s something for everyone and there is an entire aisle devoted just to it at the grocery store. I would recommend this novel to girls, especially those interested in other cultures. Be warned, there was some bad language and mention of sex. 

Publication Date: February 11, 2014

Also Try: Under the Persimmon Tree, by Suzanne Fisher Staples; Sold, by Patricia McCormick; Saving Sky, by Diane Stanley

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