Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by JC Carlson

Book: The Tyrant's Daughter by JC Carlson
Released: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304 (Kindle)
Rating: 3.75
*I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review*


From Goodreads:
THERE: In an unnamed Middle Eastern country, fifteen-year-old Laila has always lived like royalty. Her father is a dictator of sorts, though she knows him as King—just as his father was, and just as her ttle brother Bastien will be one day. Then everything changes: Laila's father is killed in a coup.

HERE: As war surges, Laila flees to a life of exile in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Overnight she becomes a nobody. Even as she adjusts to a new school and new friends, she is haunted by the past. Was her father really a dictator like the American newspapers say? What was the cost of her family's privilege?

Far from feeling guilty, her mother is determined to regain their position of power. So she's engineering a power play—conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to gain a foothold to the throne. Laila can't bear to stand still as yet another international crisis takes shape around her. But how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
 One of my goals for this year was to read more books outside of my favorite genre. So when I came across this book on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I held off on reading it for a few weeks after downloading it to my kindle and piggy-backed it with the series my book club was reading (Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson). They were a great pairing together. Since I was already immersed in the culture of Middle Eastern countriesit made the transition into this world much easier. 

This story centers around 15 year old Laila. She is forced to flee her home country with her mother and younger brother in the wake of her father's (who was the king) death during a coup. Carlson does not name a specific country, but rather describes the country in generalizations for that area of the world. Occasionally I tried to picture a specific country, but it really didn't affect my enjoyment of the story not having one named in particular.
Upon arrival in the US, Laila struggles, while her 6 year old brother adapted much more easily. Laila was surprised, and often disgusted with the American culture that was so much different than her own. I really enjoyed reading how Laila was dealing with the differences. Things that seem minor or not a big deal to us (shorts, tank tops, fast food lines, etc), were a totally new thing to her. 
One of the parts I enjoyed the most was her conversation with two of her friends about the differences in relationships between girls and guys in their respective countries.. In Laila's country, they rarely interact with the opposite sex, and discussion with other females is truly about friendship and camaraderie; whereas in the US, all the girls talked about was the boys.

Speaking of boys.... Laila meets the super cute and sweet Ian. He takes her to do all the fun, normal American things. And tries to teach her how to drive, which provided some great moments of discussion between the two. I loved the development of their relationship, including the ups and downs which is very indicative of high school students dating.

I also loved the developing and complicated friendship between Laila & Emmy. Emmy quickly adopts Laila in to her group and tries to show her "the ropes" in school and other parts of Laila's new world. I loved how Carlson wrote this friendship. Things weren't always easy, and they often clashed or had problems with each other, but that's how friendship is, especially in high school. It was an accurate portrayal of how each of the girls would have interacted together.

Even through all of this, Laila (and her brother) never truly feel comfortable and find their place in the US. Despite everything Laila learns about how the rest of the world views her country, she still yearns to return home. I was glad to see that Carlson didn't take the easy way out and just make the story about how impressed Laila was with everything and how she wanted nothing more than to stay in America. I felt it was much more realistic this way.
The journey Laila goes on through this story is great. From despair at leaving her home country, to trying to adjust to a "new normal," to uncovering things about her father and her country, Laila learns a lot during the course of the book. And still remains good. I definitely enjoyed her as a main character, and would read more about her in the future.
While this book was more political than what I usually read, I really enjoyed it overall. It definitely succeeding in making me see that part of the world in a different light. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about different cultures, in fact I immediately suggested it to my sister-in-law who particularly enjoys books of this genre.


  1. I felt the same way - I thought it did a great job fleshing out her transition to our culture and highlighting many of the differences we take for granted. I enjoyed it as well - great review!

    1. Thank you! For a book so much out of my norm, I quite enjoyed it.