The Tyrant's Daughter is the story of Laila and her family who flee from the middle east due to a coup on her dictator father and must adjust to a new world in the United States. Laila is the main protagonist in this young-adult novel. She is a young teenage girl who, with her mother and her younger brother, Bastion, has fled an unnamed Middle-Eastern country after the death and coup of their father who was presumably the dictator. Laila's Uncle has stayed to take over in her father's death. Their father, is referenced by her mother and Bastion as "the king" and her mother often refers to Bastion as "little king". Having been rushed over to take refuge in Washington, D.C., Laila and her family have many adjustments to make. The three of them lived like royalty back home and the small and scuzzy two-bedroom apartment that they're forced to live in while taking refuge is a major adjustment for the three of them.
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Laila and her brother are sent to an American school and while Laila is looking to move forward with her situation, her mother is still looking into the past. Bastion still believes that he will be “king” and Laila's mother is ceaseless in this encouragement, despite Laila's protests. Laila's mother is unable to give up her luxurious ways and won't get a job. The family is strapped for money at times, though some always seems to magically appear when they truly need it. Laila notices that her mother is associating with a man named Darren, who she figures out, is with the CIA and suspects that this is where the money is coming from. As Laila starts to snoop into her mother's affairs, she learns that her mother is having discussions with a lowborn family from a similar region as them, a family, which they would not normally associate with. She means to find out what it is that her mother and Darren want with this family and why it is that her mother wants her to be friendly to the teenage boy Amir, who goes to her school. Amir is prickly towards to Laila and she doesn't know why.
As Laila adjusts in school she makes some friends, has a crush and endeavors in what is considered normal teenage behavior in the United States. Her mother even encourages it. She kisses a boy, wears a sleeveless dress and goes to a school dance. She lets loose, for a time. Her friends hint at what they know of her father in terms of the American media. While scared to know the truth Laila begins to delve into who her father really was, what turmoil he caused and why her family is in their current situation. As she learns, the life that she lived back home and the stories that she has been told were mostly lies. Laila's father was a cruel dictator that cost many people their lives. She soon learns that her father is responsible for an attack that physically disabled Amir's sister and has put his parent's in danger. While Laila has been able to get somewhat closer to Amir, with this knowledge, Laila learns why Amir has been so cold and distant from her.
Laila's world unfolds. She cannot be a carefree teenage with the knowledge and burdens she carries. She learns that her Uncle is likely responsible for her father's death and that her mother has an elaborate scheme to get her family back home that involves Amir's family. As Laila learns the truth with what her mother is planning, Laila realizes that her mother has not only manipulated Amir and his family but has used her as well. Devastated, Laila realizes that she must use her knowledge and power to make a difference for her, her brother and her people.
Best part of story, including ending:
The author did a great job in depicting the differences between Laila and American teenagers. What's even better, is that it's not a drab, sappy, teenage-love infused story. This story has substance! I think it's a book that any teenager living in this post 9/11 world should read. It gives an idea of what the other side of the coin might look like.
What I struggle to believe unfortunately, is that the if this were a real life scenario I can't imagine American teenagers and families accepting and being kind to Laila, especially knowing who her father was.
Best scene in story:
I really enjoyed the scene at the school dance. It's a time when Laila gets to experience some serenity, freedom and safety that she has not ever experienced before.
Opinion about the main character:
I loved Laila's intelligence and emotional depth. Her personality and will truly carried this story. She is felt like a real person and it was easy to sympathize with her turmoil.