Author: J.C. Carleson
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published Date: February 11th 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Politics
Page Count: 304
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.
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?
J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.
"Because it would never happen back home, and because here it can. Because here, for the first time in my life, I'm allowed to want. And I do."
When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I’ve always been curious as to how much, the wives and daughters knew of what was happening, and how they dealt with the aftermath of what happened. This is a book told in very small chapters with each one only being about 2-5 pages, making the book a faster read. Personally I couldn’t get enough of it.
Laila is a very realistic teenager, not only has she been taken away from the only home she has ever known, her father has also died, her brother keeps thinking her really is a king/prince, and a mother who insists that everything is fine, even when it’s not.
"I'm hungry, I'm tired, and my head is full of so many questions I don't even know where to begin. I miss my home, my bedroom, my tutor, my things. I miss my father, I miss my life. "
She misses her old life, which is understandable. But as she starts getting somewhat used to America and has made friends with Emmy who helped her out at school, and turned out to be a pretty good friend for the most part. Laila starts seeing the differences between her old life (then) and the now (here), she sees that they didn’t get told childhood stories where princess get hurt because they disobeyed their father’s wishes, nor did they take bomb threats seriously, and that seeing dead bodies wrapped up on the road wasn’t normal either.
"I'm angry that I have a visual to go with this thought. An image of bodies stacked and wrapped like the burritos on today's menu. These thoughts are not healthy. I know that, but I can't shake them. I can't escape the bloodstained context that has been draped over my life. I can't escape my memories."
She also sees how other people in her country lived when her mother forces her to befriend Amir who is also a teenager from their country now living in America. The only thing is, is that they were from different parts of society there, and that his life was filled with bombings, and death on a personal level, while she had been able to ignore it for the most part.
"How am I supposed to keep up with the changes when I don't understand the rules?"
The most heartbreaking thing though was for her to learn who her father truly was, and what he had done. She saw what the rest of the world thought of him, and how her own country had seen him.
"Remember this, Laila. No matter what you hear about your father, no matter what happens, remember that he was the one who had faith in you and love for you when no one else did. Not even me."
After she learned about all that, she started to wonder had her mother known. Then she had to deal with knowing what her Uncle was doing now that he was in charge, and that her mother still might be involved. As Laila learned more and more, and she saw things differently she started doing her own research to see what was going on, and if she could stop it and her uncle.
Then the best part happens Laila finds just what she needs, and she uses it for everything she’s got. She stands up to her mother and lets her known she will be heard, and she won’t go back to how things were before it all happened.
"It's my insurance policy. My weapon. My treasure. When the time comes, I will be happy to let it go. I have people and places I can hardly wait to visit. I'll leave bit of the treasure wherever I go- a merry trail of golden crumbs. Perhaps my homeland can produce a happy fairy tale yet."
I wish there were more books about Laila and her family. I couldn’t get enough of this story, I always had to know what was going to happen next, and if her and her brother would adjust to life here in America or if they would go back home. No one country is ever mentioned in this book, as being there home, so we just assume it could be any of the countries in the Middle East. There is a love interest in this book, but it doesn’t go very far, so I would call this a clean read.
"It's ours," she says "It's our burden, our responsibility, and our right."