The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
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?
It has been almost two weeks since I finished this book, and I'm only now getting around to writing a review for it. This is mostly due to my well-developed ability to procrastinate, but it's also because I don't have a whole lot to say on The Tyrant's Daughter.
Let me clear up a few things: the writing was good, and I enjoyed reading it. The Tyrant's Daughter provided insights into middle-eastern culture, and Laila's experiences in America made me examine my culture a little more closely. This book, if anything, made me even more ashamed of the Americans that call women "terrorists" for wearing their hijab - which is why I recommend this book. The Tyrant's Daughter should be required reading in American high schools, simply because the story it tells is so important.
Important doesn't necessarily mean incredible, though. Laila's story wasn't as strong as it could have been, due mainly to her nonchalant attitude. "Nonchalant" isn't really the right word; Laila narrated her story like it happened a long time ago. It was obvious that she felt something about the events she was retelling, but the emotion was distant. There were a few scenes that made me fairly angry and even a little choked up, but my reaction was more because of the details in the story than the way it was being told. The nonchalance, for lack of a better word, also stole a lot of the suspense from the story, making the climax of the novel seem almost like a non-event.
Laila was relatable as much as she was foreign, and she was a passably complex character. The majority of the other characters had only two sides; they had depth, but they weren't complex. The rest were completely flat. Most of my interest in the characters came from Laila's analysis of them, which was again insightful.
The Tyrant's Daughter is definitely, absolutely worth the read. I give Carleson a lot of credit for tackling this subject and doing a respectably good job with it. The impact of the story is strong; the rest of it is somewhat weak.
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