Darius the Great Is Not Okay is so sweet and it basically melted my heart.
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 understands 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 Darioush–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 Darioush on his own.
Reasons why I loved this book:
1. The Friendship
This book is about friendship, among other things, and the relationship between Darius (the MC) and Sohrab (a boy he meets in Iran) is so sweet and I love them so much. It’s not often in YA that we get to read about an adorable, vulnerable boy friendship (in fact, I feel like I don’t read as many boy protagonists in general) and that’s absolutely something we should have more of.
2. The Humor
Despite the fact that this book deals with some serious themes, it surprisingly still manages to be really hilarious! Darius’s sarcastic, self-deprecating humor was perfect and totally my style. I feel like we would be friends if we knew each other in real life.
3. The Family Dynamics
I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: family dynamics are my favorite to read about. I loved how Adib Khorram explores Darius’s relationship with his dad, who is really tough on Darius, and also his awkward relationship with his grandparents, whom he is meeting for the first time.
4. The Nerdiness
I don’t know Star Trek and Lord of the Rings (which Darius is obsessed with), but I really appreciated how much of a nerd he is. Like I said, I feel like we would be friends!
5. The Setting & the Culture
The majority of Darius the Great Is Not Okay is set in Iran, and it was really cool to read about what it’s like to be Iranian. I feel like I learned a little bit about Iranian culture through reading this book. This worked out nicely for me, as I am currently learning a bit about Iranian history in one of my classes at school.
6. The Writing
One thing I noticed about the book that really stood out to me is how the author incorporates “um” into the dialogue. This felt so realistic to me, and it was such a great way to show Darius’s awkwardness through the writing. Not to mention, I’m sure it’s very easy to try and include words like “um” and have it mess up the writing, but it seems to me like Khorram does it right—the book still flows nicely.
7. The Themes
Depression and identity are both major parts of the book, and as far as I can tell, they are both done really well. The author talks a lot about the struggle of feeling “not American enough” and “not Persian enough,” which really stuck with me. I also loved that one of the main messages that can be taken away from this book is that it’s okay to not be okay.
8. The Tea & the Soccer
This is just a little thing, but it made me happy that tea and soccer are in this book so much, as they are both things that I love!
I loved this book! It’s beautiful and diverse and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let me know in the comments—have you read Darius the Great Is Not Okay? What did you think?
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.