The Tyrant's Daughter
By J.C. Carleson
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. 304 pages. Young Adult
When her father is assassinated in a military coup, 15-year-old Laila flees her palatial life in an unnamed middle eastern country with her mother and younger brother. Now exiled to a drab apartment in the U.S., Laila and her younger brother Bastien (whom Laila nicknames "the King of Nowhere") struggle to adapt to American life, while their mother plots with CIA operatives and rebel factions from home to regain the throne their family has lost. As Laila begins to unravel the snarl of uneasy alliances her mother has wrought, she knows she cannot stand idly by and allow her mother to launch another coup -- but should Laila try to stop the coming international crisis when it means a possibility of returning home?
J.C. Carleson has built a powerful, affecting novel on the foundation of her experiences as a CIA agent in the middle east. Laila's voice is deft, lyrical, and laced with the grief of losing her father, her country, her culture, her safety . . . all while finding out that the man she adored is seen as a monster on the international stage. While the end feels a little rushed, and there are a few minor inconsistencies in the latter half of the book, the novel is an engrossing, illuminating read that will certainly help readers understand the middle eastern mindset a little better.