The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Tyrant's Daughter

The Tyrant's Daughter

4.3 18
by J. C. Carleson
     
 

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“Filled with political intrigue and emotional tension, Carleson’s riveting novel features a teenage refugee caught in a web of deceit and conspiracy.” —PW, starred review
 
When her father is killed in a coup, Laila and her mother and brother leave their war-torn homeland for a fresh start in the suburbs of

Overview

“Filled with political intrigue and emotional tension, Carleson’s riveting novel features a teenage refugee caught in a web of deceit and conspiracy.” —PW, starred review
 
When her father is killed in a coup, Laila and her mother and brother leave their war-torn homeland for a fresh start in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
 
At her new high school, Laila makes mistakes, makes friends, and even meets a boy who catches her eye. But this new life brings unsettling facts to light. The American newspapers call her father a brutal dictator and suggest that her family’s privilege came at the expense of innocent lives. Meanwhile, her mother would like nothing more than to avenge his death, and she’ll go to great lengths to regain their position of power.
 
As an international crisis takes shape around her, Laila is pulled in one direction, then another, but there’s no time to sort out her feelings. She has to pick a side now, and her decision will affect not just her own life, but countless others. . . .

Praise for The Tyrant’s Daughter:
“Carleson, a former undercover CIA officer, infuses her story with compelling details and gripping authenticity.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Every American should read this book. It’s an eye-opener.” —Suzanne Fisher Staples, Newbery Honor–winning author of Shabanu

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 11/18/2013
Filled with political intrigue and emotional tension, Carleson’s riveting novel features a teenage refugee caught in a web of deceit and conspiracy. Fifteen-year-old Laila grew up believing she was a princess and that her younger brother, Bastien, was heir to the throne. After her father’s assassination, however, when her family flees to the United States, she learns that the world views her father as a cruel dictator (“ ‘Repressive regime,’ that damning alliteration, chases him throughout the newspapers like a dog nipping at his heels”). Carleson dramatically illustrates Laila’s culture shock in a suburb of Washington, D. C., not knowing whether she can trust her friendly American classmates or if she should befriend fellow refugees resentful of her father’s power. She is even unsure about her own mother, whose secret telephone conversations and sporadic financial windfalls make Laila suspicious. The heroine’s homeland is never named, but readers will find it easy to draw parallels to current events. Raising as many questions as answers about Laila’s fate, the novel challenges social values close to home and abroad. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jessica Regel, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
The narrator, fifteen-year-old Laila, has been uprooted from her childhood home of luxury in an unnamed country in the Middle East to a two-bedroom apartment in Virginia after her father is executed by her uncle. Her mother seems oblivious to the new circumstances until she is persuaded by the CIA to entertain some countrymen who would never support her husband. Laila’s brother is the King of Nowhere and is both an exasperation and a touching reminder of her lost innocence. Laila tries to navigate American society with the “mentorship” of Emily, not quite knowing what is true and real and what is image. She is pushed to approach the taciturn Amir, slowly building a relationship based on a common language and a memory of home, and she is approached by Ian, a compassionate teen who understands a bit of how confusing Laila’s new life can be. As Laila tries to fit into her new world—letting herself be made up and clothed immodestly by traditional standards for a school dance, she also begins to discover that her former life of luxury was built not on her father’s royalty but on his dictatorship and looting of his own countrymen. Led by her concern for her country into a betrayal of those working for a revolution, she finds herself caught in a web of political manipulation involving the violent deaths of families she knows. Knowing that her family will return home as CIA pawns, she steals the info for her father’s international accounts as a personal insurance policy. Written by a former CIA operative, this book captures Laila’s confusion, aspirations, intelligence, and social attitudes while painting a bleak picture of unnamed Middle Eastern countries. While this book will not enhance readers’ political knowledge, it may deepen their understanding of how history is written by the victors. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg; Ages 12 up.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-20
A teenage girl from an unnamed Middle Eastern country attempts to come to terms with her dictator father's bloody legacy in this absorbing character-driven novel authored by a former CIA official. Fifteen-year-old Laila lives in a shabby apartment outside of Washington, D.C., with her mother and little brother. She misses her homeland, but return is impossible since her uncle had her father assassinated and took control of the government. "I'm half Here. I'm half There. I'm a girl divided, which is to say I'm no one at all." While her mother schemes with both American officials and rebels from their country to remedy their untenable situation, Laila reluctantly begins to enjoy the simple freedoms of school and friendships. But worrisome thoughts of her mother's secretive phone calls and the mysterious CIA agent who lurks around their apartment are never far from her mind. And how will she ever reconcile what she now knows about her father the dictator with the loving man who raised her? Carleson shrewdly makes what has become a sadly familiar story on the evening news accessible by focusing on the experiences of one innocent girl at the center of it. Laila is a complex and layered character whose nuanced observations will help readers better understand the divide between American and Middle Eastern cultures. Smart, relevant, required reading. (author's note, commentary, further reading) (Fiction. 13 & up)
From the Publisher
The Boston Globe, June 21, 2014:
"Carleson, a former undercover CIA officer, infuses her story with compelling details and gripping authenticity."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2013:
"Filled with political intrigue and emotional tension, Carleson’s riveting novel features a teenage refugee caught in a web of deceit and conspiracy."

Starred Review, Kirkus, December 15, 2013:
“Laila is a complex and layered character whose nuanced observations will help readers better understand the divide between American and Middle Eastern cultures. Smart, relevant, required reading.”

BookPage, February 2014:
"As a former undercover CIA agent, debut author J.C. Carleson has a firm grasp on the world of espionage and power plays. She is able to take her intimate knowledge of this secretive world, an often-avoided gray area of morality, and craft an amazingly gripping and honest tale. Carleson keeps her readers feeling as though they have just returned from traveling in a foreign land, making those faraway issues feel a little more personal—a feat few can achieve with words alone."

Booklist, February 1, 2014:
"This is more than just Laila’s story; rather, it is a story of context, beautifully written (by a former undercover CIA agent), and stirring in its questions and eloquent observations about our society and that of the Middle East."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2014:
"Timely, relevant, and fascinating, Laila’s story offers readers an accessible understanding of the seemingly intractable nature of Middle East politics. An equally fascinating additional note by Dr. Cheryl Benard offers more real-world context for Laila’s fictional but very credible position. Resources for further research are included."

"This story is important on so many levels. It invites readers to contemplate paradox and contradictions in ways that few books do: how a friend’s loyalty trumps her annoying habits; how you can love your country and still be honest about its shortcomings; how betrayal might be justifiable. But mostly it’s a touching, suspenseful story about two children who don’t belong anywhere. Every American should read this book. It’s an eye-opener." —Suzanne Fisher Staples, Newbery Honor-winning author of Shabanu

"It's a story both foreign and familiar, global and intimate. A tense chess game where you'll think you know the final moves only to learn you've been outsmarted.”  —Dana Reinhardt, award-winning author of The Things a Brother Knows

Mashable, June 17, 2014:
"This compelling look at someone fighting desperately against a truth she'd rather not believe challenges you to think deeper."

School Library Journal
03/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Growing up in an unidentified Middle Eastern country, Laila had no reason to question her parents' narrative-her father was king, and her privileged life was one afforded by birthright. That changes, however, when her father is killed in a coup, and she, her younger brother, and their mother flee the family's palace compound with aid from the U.S. government. Now in a suburb of Washington, DC, the 15-year-old is exposed for the first time to a Western view of both her homeland and father. The news reports of a tyrant whose regime was responsible for atrocities against its people are at odds with her memories of a loving parent. A devastated Laila, realizing that "his was an authority based more on bloodshed than blood right," begins to question all that she's been told. Laila struggles to adjust to American life; Carleson portrays her peers as rather flat in order to underscore Laila's emotional distance from other teens. Although Laila's mother is still embroiled in dealings with the CIA, this smart, complex novel refrains from falling into clandestine spy tropes and deftly shows that innocents get caught on both sides of any conflict. The concluding pages leave Laila's story open-ended, but readers will hope that the teen's good nature continues to prevail.—Amanda Mastrull, School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780449809976
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
02/11/2014
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
HL720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

J. C. CARLESON is a former undercover CIA officer who has navigated war zones, jumped out of airplanes, and worked on the frontlines of international conflicts. She now writes when she’s not traveling the globe with her husband and two young sons. Her previous publications include Cloaks and Veils, and Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer.

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