The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carlson
Novel: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carlson | Goodreads
Release Date: February 11th, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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?
I went into The Tyrant’s Daughter not expecting much. Well, I was expecting certain things of the book, but I didn’t think it would be as impactful, thought-provoking, and amazing as it ultimately was.
I have to start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I love learning about different cultures and cultural expectations and traditions. Growing up in a multi-cultural family, it’s been an integral part of my identity. It’s always fascinated me, and I find it interesting to think about how other people view us. When cultures are so vastly different, how do we, as Americans, look?
This book was definitely illuminating. I loved learning about Laila’s cultural background, and I loved seeing the world through her eyes, through her experiences. The way that she views America and Americans? It’s so true. It’s so real. And the way her peers in America perceive her, a foreigner, also ring true. Laila is such a complex character with a very complex background. Sometimes, we forget about the people on the other side of the news we hear. Laila’s story re-opened my eyes to that fact. Do the people we think are doing the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing in their eyes? Most of the time, no. America isn’t as clean and innocent as we’d like to believe, but neither is any other country. But we generally think we’re doing the right thing, and so do they (in both situations, of course, not everyone agrees). I think that this book allowed me to view situations from both sides. We hear about people we deem evil, but we never stop to think about their family, their friends, and their motivations. The Tyrant’s Daughter is definitely an eye-opener, thought-provoker, and conversation starter.
Another aspect, which I briefly mentioned above, that I think was well done was Laila’s view on American culture and society. Ranging from school dances to American food to interactions between genders, it’s amazing to see how a foreigner would view what we consider the norm. But the thing is, it’s all true, for better or for worse. Again, it brings back that clash of culture, but the truth is so well-written.
Parts of the plot also kept me thinking the entire time. I was wondering what Gansler was up to. I was trying to piece together what Laila’s mother was doing. I was thinking about whether everyone was as sincere as they acted. Some aspects were fairly predictable, but there were some twists that I was not expecting.
Additionally, the cast of characters was very diverse. Each one brought something to the table. Laila and her relationship with both her brother, her mother, and every other character was very well explored for the most part. I loved seeing the different relationships form, change, and grow. There was also the exploration of the different relationship existing between Amir and Laila and Laila and her American peers. I think it’s an important distinction to make, and Carlson did that exceptionally well.
There were one or two things that bothered me a little bit though. First was the ending. I felt that it left a lot of loose ends. Okay, so life doesn’t usually end up having tidy endings and closure, but there were relationships that were too well formed and explored to just be left the way it was. I think that it made sense, but I also felt like it made it feel a little less like an ending. Yes, I did like how Laila finally took control over something in her life, and I think the ending solidified Laila’s transformation as a character, but the ending also felt very incomplete.
Lastly, while I know the book is mainly character-driven, this wasn’t one of those character-driven books that I could read quickly. It took me much longer than it should have to get through this book. There were parts that I just had to push through. There were many times when the book was just slow and dragged on. I won’t deny that characters weren’t explored well, but there was a point where I was just going to give up on finishing for the time being. I’m glad I pushed through it, but even for a well-written character-driven plot/book, it took a lot more time and energy to get through certain portions of the book.