The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received an ARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. The book is The Tyrant's Daughter by JC Carleson.
I've never given much thought to what the families of deposed Dictators do once their source of protection and special privilege is gone. Of course, it's bound to have a tremendous impact on safety issues as well as the source of income needed to keep these families in simple items like groceries and clothes. If, as is many times the case, the sense of privilege is taken for granted by the Dictator's family, losing their position in their own countries and the failure to recognize royalty in the US, it must be a jolting wake up call to become aware of how insignificant these people are in the global view of things. This is what is addressed in **The Tyrant's Daughter**, and it is very well done. The book brings to light how vastly different views are regarding deposed royalty, and what is deserved and what is not even worth considering when the ruler of a country is removed from power. For me, Laila, the daughter of a dictator, was a fascinating character right from the start. She begins her narrative with the title **Pretending** and gives her thoughts on the behavior of her younger brother as well as her mother, who has to figure out a survival strategy for herself and her children. Laila has issues with her mother from the beginning to the twist at the end. For her it becomes a matter of seeing all sides of the problems they face. This is not always a good thing when the stakes are as high as they were for her family.
It was particularly interesting to me to read about the US as seen through the eyes of a young girl who doesn't have much life experience and has been sheltered most of her life. Now she is in a strange country where everything is different from what she had been experiencing in her home country. For example, there's the grocery store. In her country, cereal was a luxury afforded only for the privileged. Her brother, Bastien, is only 6 years old. He doesn't understand any of the intrigue surrounding his family, so he does what most 6 year old little boys do. But there is one exception: Bastien was brought up to believe that he would take over as ruler of the country once his father was unable to fulfill those duties. Now the only person he can order around is his sister because she and her mother are the only two people who have any idea what Bastien's legacy from his father was going to be. Bastien loved cereal, and he especially liked the variety he could choose from in his new home. Laila, on the other had was bowled over when she saw the number of boxes on the cereal shelves and the unbelievable number of cereals to choose from. But if the cereal choices are voluminous, the number of choices for mustard is appalling to her. She doesn't understand the need for so many different brands of anything. She makes a valid point.
When Laila and Bastien are ordered to attend school or be deported, Laila is quickly pushed into another confusing situation. She does ask for and gets a girl who will help her manage all that's involved at fitting into a high school atmosphere. This is when Laila begins to realize what her father was doing while she remained blissfully ignorant about him in other ways besides being her father. Emmy, her student guide, mentions that Laila's father was a dictator. This was information Laila did not have and did not want to believe. Her own research confirmed what Emmy said. This information pushed Laila even further into confusion about who her father really was. To believe the stories from the newspapers Meant abandoning her belief in the loving figure her father was to her. Laila was too old to be under the fairy tale influence her brother thrived on, but she wasn't old enough to understand the world is not strictly black and white; there are many shades of gray to be considered.
In the course of the story Laila meets an American boy, and the two of them discover they like each other more than they first believed. Laila also meets Amir, an immigrant from her country who is not interested in becoming Americanized. He and Laila also become close, and it is through him Laila stays in touch with what is happening in their country since they've been gone. It is Amir who keeps Laila centered as far as who she is and what she's going to be about the rest of her life. He is intense, but he has good reason to be. Amir, in a strange way, becomes Laila's conscience, and he takes his role very seriously. He provides another point of view that for Laila is often disturbing.
The book goes on to get deeper into what Laila's country was really like as opposed to the way she perceived it behind the sheltered walls of a home that wasn't nearly what Laila thought it was. Her disillusionment with the past as it actually was rather than what she saw for herself growing up makes the ending an excellent topic of conversation in book groups.
This book was published by Random House: Alfred A Knopf Books For Young Readers, and it is recommended for ages 12 and up. In my opinion this book is every bit as interesting for adults as it would be for a younger age group. I highly recommend **The Tyrant's Daughter** to anyone who wants to read an engrossing and relevant novel.
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