Monday, March 24, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

After her father is killed during a coup in their homeland, teenage Laila arrives in the United States alongside her mother and brother. Once thought of as royalty, they each face their own difficulties in this new life. It's a life full of glaring contradictions from what they've always known, making it harder for Laila to adjust to the people around her.

As she begins to form a life in this new world, old partnerships from the homeland threaten to tear everything away from her. Ordinary events in an American teen's life prove overwhelming for someone dealing with all that Laila carries. She must do something to alleviate the torment within. But what can she do when lies and secrets surround her? Which life does she long for the most?

I began this book after receiving an invitation from NetGalley. I was definitely intrigued by the premise and thought I had a clear picture in mind of how the story was going to unfold. When I began reading the book, what I pictured was far from what the pages actually held. Told through Laila's point-of-view, the story was presented in a journal-like fashion and often recounted her thoughts, feelings and accusations as well as experiences both in her homeland and here in the United States after being rescued.

Along with Laila, a small cast of characters helped the events play out and many were beyond her control. Her mother and brother were central to her world, before and after the move, and often became points of contention as she tried to find her place within American society. Once the culture shock wore off, the dark truth behind the family's move became apparent. I really felt for Laila as she tried to find a place in school until it began to overwhelm her as well. By the middle of the book, even those who warmed to her in the beginning backed away from her. Of course, people from her homeland, also transplanted here by the disruptions, wanted more than her family could give. They also became a place of hurt and despair for her.

The author did a great job of looking at life through a young woman's eyes and allowing us to see what it might be like for someone new to this land. It wasn't hard to empathize with them as they became bombarded by many of the things we find common here. I'd never thought of something as simple as a school assignment or a football game as possibly being a trigger for bad memories. It was really eye-opening to experience it through the author's descriptions of events happening both around and inside Laila.

I found the book to be a quick read with short chapters that were very much to the point. The story is broken into three parts. The first part was slow to build but maintained a steady pace into the second and most of the third part. I thought the tension was high during the first part of the book but it too increased as events came to a head. Just when I thought I had it figured out, the author deftly revealed secrets that I, through Laila, wasn't privy to which changed the course of the ending. Sometimes I like being wrong about endings and this was one of them.

Overall, the book was a good read that has a good message that I hope young people will discover. It's not a watered-down teenage book about political intrigue or high school, but it does include those things and forces a person to the other side of something from which they may have been hiding. If you're looking for a well-written political drama featuring a teen too smart for her own good, then this is the book for you.

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson is now available at many retailers. It can be purchased in a variety of formats including hardcover, Kindle or audio-book. You can click the link below to get a your copy from Amazon.
The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

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