Synopses & Reviews
From a former CIA officer comes a riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.
THERE: In an unnamed country, fifteen-year-old Laila has always lived like royalty. Her father is a dictator of sorts, though she knows him as King — just as his father was, and just as her little brother Bastien will be one day. Then everything changes: Laila's father is killed in a coup.
HERE: As war surges, Laila flees to a life of exile in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Overnight she becomes a nobody. Even as she adjusts to a new school and new friends, she is haunted by the past. Was her father really a dictator like the American newspapers say? What was the cost of her family's privilege?
Far from feeling guilty, her mother is engineering a power play — conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to gain a foothold to the throne. Laila can't bear to stand still as yet another international crisis takes shape around her. But how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
An author's note delves into J.C Carleson's experiences undercover in Iraq and a bonus commentary by RAND researcher and president of ARCH International, Dr. Cheryl Benard, sheds more light on conflict in the region. Recommendations for further reading are also included.
“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.” Kirkus, Starred Review
"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." BookPage
"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." Booklist
"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." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"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
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.
"Every American should read this book. It's an eye-opener." —Suzanne Fisher Staples, Newbery Honor-winning author of Shabanu
*Bonus Backmatter includes a note about the author's CIA past, and a commentary by RAND researcher and president of ARCH International, Dr. Cheryl Benard. Recommendations for further reading are also included.
About 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 lives and writes in Virginia with her husband and two young sons. Her previous publications include the novel Cloaks and Veils, and Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer.