In a fun twist on “What I’m Reading Now,” I’m reading a book that hasn’t been published yet! I scored an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The book won’t actually be published until February 11, but don’t worry, it’s already on order and will be on the shelves at GEPL soon!
What I’m Reading Now: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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.
Do I Like It: I definitely like it, though it’s one of those books giving me “doom” stomach knots right now.
Thoughts: I read a lot of good reviews of this book before I lucked into a chance to read it early, so I was excited to get started. What I found is a book that’s both exactly what the reviews promised me, and not at all what I expected.
What I was expecting, and got, is a portrait of a girl struggling to define herself after her life changes completely. What I was not expecting was the tenseness of wondering what is going on with Laila’s mother and the CIA. I was also not expecting that the focus on Laila adjusting to the United States would be less about culture shock and clothes and independence, and more about making friends and learning to connect with people in a real way rather than through the layers of privilege, power and half-truths that surrounded her in her old life.
But despite all this – the CIA, the friends, the family – it is Laila who drives the book. She is a fantastic character, likable but believably naïve and flawed. Despite circumstances that I certainly will never experience, she struggled with issues I think anyone can recognize – having to re-think her view of her parents and her world, being thrust into completely new life circumstances, how to make and keep friends. What makes Laila so wonderful to me is that she is unafraid to change, unafraid to adjust her own ideas and identity. Although it is difficult for her to learn the truth about her father, she doesn’t hide from it or deny it, and she acts similarly about other conflicts. Though she worries about and fears many things, she faces the changes in her life and herself with courage.
I can’t wait to see how Laila’s story ends, and I have a feeling that The Tyrant’s Daughter is one of those books I’ll be thinking about for a long time after I’m done reading.