Review: “Darius the Great is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram

37506437Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay

Author: Adib Khorram

Publisher: Dial Books / Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: August 28, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million

(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-headshotAdib 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.

You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com

 

Review: “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh

36464087Title: Ghosted

Author: Rosie Walsh

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: July 24, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐1/2

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by Penguin Publishing Group via their First to Read program)

 

Romance, mystery and family drama abound in Ghosted, Rosie Walsh’s first novel published under her real name.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

Goodreads

It seems like the typical love story.

Sarah and Eddie meet in a quiet rural lane in Gloucestershire. Their attraction is instant, immediately becoming lovers only after a whole day together talking over drinks at their local pub. They spend six more days together, cocooned in the bliss of their newfound love. Their week is halted, however, when Eddie leaves for his planned vacation to Spain. Secured in the knowledge that they will see each other again, Sarah and Eddie part exchanging phone numbers and social media details so they can still keep in touch.

Eddie neither calls nor texts. Even on social media, he is silent. Like a ghost, he seems to have vanished into thin air. Distraught and worried that something bad might have happened to him, Sarah stalks his accounts, sends him numerous messages and calls his number all to no avail. Friends tell her to let Eddie go, to accept that he has changed his mind about her and them, but Sarah just cannot, convinced there is a reason behind Eddie’s radio silence. When she proves herself right, she must confront ugly events from her past if only to have a chance at a future with the man she has fallen in love with.

I really, really wanted to love this book. It just looked like something that I might like, but a couple of days after finishing, the only thing I’m feeling for Ghosted is ambivalence.

Without even giving much focus on their insta-love, Eddie and Sarah’s characters just felt flat to me. I couldn’t connect with them no matter how much I wanted to. Shallowly drawn and caricature-like, there wasn’t much to go about these two. I did not care what happens to them, if they get back together or not, probably because I did not get to know Eddie and Sarah well enough to even develop a bit of empathy for their characters. The same goes for the rest of the cast. Even the extraneous plot lines featuring these secondary characters – the affair between Sarah’s two best friends, Jenni’s IVF, her ex-husband’s new relationship – felt surface and don’t add anything to the story as a whole.

The mystery element of this story, however, was what kept me reading.

The puzzling letters, the constantly mentioned but absent younger sister, the dropped clues about a tragic accident – all these were intriguing enough that I continued reading Ghosted.  Things started to become interesting about halfway through the book when, finally, more details about Sarah’s younger sister Hannah and the accident she was involved in were revealed. But this high point did not last long for me as the twists Walsh kept on throwing got very old fast. The revelations felt contrived and unbelievable, and by the end of the book, I just did not care for it anymore.

Rosie Walsh, who has written several books under her pen name Lucy Robinson, definitely had some good ideas for this book; it was in the execution of these ideas though that she failed. I hate to admit this, but Ghosted just was not for me.