Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Aristocratic Mid-Eastern Teenager Caught Between the Past and Her Present in America: The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson

Fifteen-year-old Leila, her mother, and seven-year-old brother, Bastian, escape from their oil-rich Mideastern country when her father, the ruler, is assassinated by his brother, the General. In America, Leila is faced with a foreign world. The palace is replaced with a one-bedroom apartment. No body guards surround the family. Her brother adapts quickly to his new surroundings, but her mother plots to return to power in their homeland.

In the high school, Leila finds herself surrounded by bouncy, bright Americans who find loud music and sexually suggestive dancing amusing. Leila, on the contrary, hears gun fire and can't forget her conservative, veiled upbringing. She makes friends, but these friends bring up uncomfortable ideas. Was her father responsible for the bloodshed in her country? She becomes friends with a boy from the opposition, giving her a glimpse of what her father's policies did to people.

Although this novel is targeted at a young adult audience, it can be equally interesting for adults. The author did an exceptionally fine job showing how Leila reacted to the cultural differences between her country and the United States. It also shows how ordinary people get caught up in international intrigue and the cost this entails for their families.

I highly recommend this book. The characters, particularly Leila, are well drawn, as is Amir, her friend from the opposition. Some of the American teenagers seem one dimensional, but that is appropriate since they are seen through Leila's eyes. It is only as the book progresses that she is able to see that Emmy, her best friend and supporter, has her own serious problems to deal with.

The bonus material at the end is well worth reading. The author explains how she got the idea for the book, and Dr. Cheryl Benard , RAND Researcher, presents a personal view of women caught up in international politics on the Mideast.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.