Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Publisher: Dial Books / Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
(Digital ARC graciously provided by Penguin Publishing Group via their First to Read program)
A bi-racial teen discovers the other half of his heritage in Adib Khorram’s heartbreaking and hilarious coming-of-age tale.
Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming – especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.
Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.
Sohrab calls him Darious – the original Persian version of his name – and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darious on his own.
I didn’t know what I was expecting when I requested for Darius the Great is Not Okay. The blurb looked interesting and I was looking for something light to read, so uncontrollable me hit the request button. Little did I know that I will be handed one of the best books I’ll read this year.
There’s just so much to love in this debut – an awkward, relatable main character who will endear himself to readers, a healthy friendship, an honest portrayal of depression, and the sounds, smells and taste of Iran. I just gobbled everything up!
This one relies heavily on its main character, Darius, an awkward, nerdy teen who struggles with depression. Darius does not fit anywhere, not in school where he is a prime target for bullies like Fatty Bolger; not even in his own home where, no matter what he does, his father seems to disappointed of him. So, when his parents take him and his sister to Iran to visit his ailing father for the first and probably the last time, he’s even more out of his element.
It was so precious reading Darius’ growth. He starts out with pretty much a very negative perception of almost everything. He doesn’t really have any friends at school, except for the Persian girl who he occasionally have lunch with. He also doesn’t have a close relationship with his father, often referring to him as an “übermensch.” But, in Iran, he slowly opens up and instantly connects with Sohrab, his grandparents’ young neighbor and the son of his mother’s childhood best friend.
Sohrab becomes Darius’ first real friend and their friendship, I think, is something that both boys needed. Like Darius, Sohrab also doesn’t fit in. He is Baha’i, and this makes him a prime target for the other boys in his neighborhood. Through Sohrab, Darius discovers how it feels like to be included, to have someone to talk to and someone who’ll give him that much needed silence when he needed it, and he learns to trust himself in the process enough to start opening up. himself to the other people in his life.
As much as I love that though, what got me is the realistic and very truthful portrayal of depression in this book. Since the story follows Darius very closely, some parts may be clouded by his persistent self-loathing and overreactivity. The talk Darius and his dad had nearing the end of the book tugged at my heartstrings and made me spill a few tears. It was just so sincere and honest, and practically one of the best scenes in the whole book.
Darius’ sexuality isn’t discussed much, only hinted at, and I was actually pretty okay with that, the same way that having no romance was just fine. I think the story’s main point was to have Darius open himself up, and Adib Khorram accomplishes it successfully.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is an amazing coming-of-age story with a main character who’ll endear himself to readers. This one comes with high recommendations from me.
Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. He was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. A theater kid in high school, he went on to study design and technical theater at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, with an emphasis in lighting design. He later attended one year of film school in Vancouver, BC.
He returned to Kansas City after school, and has worked in the event production industry ever since. His first novel, DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, will be published in August 2018.
When he’s not writing or working at his dayjob, he enjoys swimming, ice skating, food, wine, video games, board games, and Kansas City barbecue.