Last Christmas my son gave me the book “The Tyrant’s Daughter” by J. C. Carleson. I always love it when my kids give me books, but I was especially surprised that he picked this book. He told me that he thought the plot sounded interesting and he figured I would like it. So I was more than happy to take the time to read it. After all, anytime that my kids give me a book, I know they’ve given it some thought . When I read the blurb on the back, I agreed with my son, the plot did indeed sound interesting. I was glad I read it.
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.
- Laila – The main character who is struggling with dealing with living in the U.S. after her family has fled the middle eastern country where she lived a sheltered life as the daughter of a ruthless dictator. However, she only knew him as her father and she had no idea how he was seen by the world. As Laila learns more about life in her country she continues to have inner struggles about her life.
- Yasmin – Laila’s mother – She was once the first lady of a nation where women had few rights. Now her husband was assassinated before her eyes and she has to deal with living in a country where life is so different. She longs to go back to her country and fight for her family’s place in it. She especially hopes that her son will be able to regain his place as the rightful heir as leader.
- Bastien – He is Laila’s brother. Since he is so young he doesn’t fully understand what has happened. He is still convinced that he is a king, yet he also easily adjusts to life in this new country.
- Emmy – She befriends Laila on her first day in school. Emmy is friendly and really wants Laila to feel at home. She researches all about Laila’s father and things going on in her country. She introduces Laila to her friends and tries to teach her about how things work in the U.S.
- Ian – A boy at school who is interested in Laila. He’s on the school newspaper and at first seems interested in Laila for a possible interview for the paper. However, he seems to genuinely care about Laila.
- Amir – A boy around Laila’s age who attends her school and is also from her country. He is from a poor and oppressed area of her country and his life back home was the opposite of Laila’s. He seems to despise Laila since her father was the evil dictator. He is involved in a group that wants Laila’s mother to help them in a coup to take over their country.
Through Laila we were able to explore what life might be like for a displaced dictator’s family. Although some of Laila’s struggles were unique to her, they are also universal to most immigrant children. Carleson’s story is engrossing and it is especially timely. It makes you think about events going on in other parts of our world and the effects that they have on the young people in those nations.
“Perhaps I’ll start calling myself The Invisible Queen. Sometimes just having a title helps.”
“What kind of person doesn’t know whether her father was a king or a monster?”
“Around the lunch table everyone seems to have given something up—dairy, meat, gluten, sugar, carbs. Only in a land of plenty could people voluntarily go without so much.”