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.
Rating: 4 stars
I loved, loved, loved this book, and it probably would have received at least 4.5 stars if it hadn't been for the ending. Or, the lack of one. I actually kind of think this book almost deserves 3 stars because of the ending, but I love it too much to give it a measly 3 stars, so 4 it is. But, on the other hand, the ending was absolutely fantastic and really befitting of the character. *sigh* Alright, I warned you up there in the title. This book left me with conflicting emotions, so let me explain.
(Oh, and there will be some spoilers in this post, but I'll let you know with a little warning before I write them.)
- The main character, Laila, was so true to herself. There were some instances where I felt like her reaction to certain things was a little odd and/or sudden, but I could overlook those instances pretty easily. Her voice was absolutely incredible!
- Laila's brother, Bastien, is soo adorable! I feel so bad for the poor kid, going through all this, but he still marches through it all with a smile on his face. I love how resilient he is!
- Laila's mom... She's a really good character, but I'm not sure if I like her, if that makes sense. She's a tough nut to crack. I'm not sure how to feel about her. But, as a character, she's fantastic, if you know what I mean.
- Amir. He is absolutely friggin' amazing! I love, love, love Amir. He's such a great character, and I feel so bad for him, and *****minor spoilers (highlight to see)***** he's so good for Laila! They are such a cute couple! :D:D:D:D:D:D *****spoiler over*****
- Emmy is a great side character! Her bubbly personality and overall cheerfulness is a great contrast to Laila's character. Also, she really does have some problems of her own, and as they get revealed, we get to see that she's not always the bubbly, happy girl, and that makes her an even greater character.
- The internal conflict was superbly done and never lacking. Laila comes from a Middle Eastern country, and is thrust into American culture. Not just American culture, but American high school culture. If that's not shocking, I don't know what is. But on top of that, she learns that her dad wasn't the great guy she'd always thought he was, and she has to deal with that. Trust me when I say that this book was most definitely not lacking in internal conflict.
- Laila's relationship with Ian was kind of iffy with me. At first, I loved Ian so much, but then he got kind of pushy and insensitive. It kind of seemed like Laila's relationship with Ian wasn't all that real, either. It seemed like it was just more of one of her attempts at "becoming American", which might have been what the author was aiming for. I mean, it fits with the arc of that story and Laila's character, but still.
- *****minor spoilers (highlight to read)***** There was a semi love triangle in this book. At first, I grimaced at its introduction because I loved Ian at the time and I didn't want a love triangle! But then, as the book went on, I grew to dislike Ian more and more and like Amir, the other part of the love triangle, more and more. Her relationship with Amir was just so much more real. But, as much as I loved the idea of Laila and Amir together, the book ended with the subplot of their relationship completely unresolved. *****spoilers over*****
- There was this big reveal in the ending, one that I never would have guessed. Throughout most of the book, I thought I knew (pretty much) the gist of what the big reveal was going to be, and at first, it looked like I was right. Then, wham! Huge twist that fit the characters involved so well, and I adore this book twice as much for it!
- The book ended with a couple of primary relationships left hanging, without (real, satisfying) resolutions to problems. This really bothered me, and is really my only main issue with the book, but for me, it's a pretty big issue. However, even still, things ending this way (even though I didn't like it) was befitting of the character.