TITLE: Darius the Great Is Not Okay (Darius the Great, #1)
AUTHOR: Adib Khorram
RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2018
SETTING: Portland, Oregon / Yazd, Iran
PUBLISHER: Dial Books, Penguin Teen
GENRE(S): Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Mental Health, Family and Culture
Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran.
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.
How do you summarize a book like this? I don’t even know how to process all of the emotions I have swirling around right now.
This was so moving. Darius was such a great person. He is flawed, has self doubt, cares so much… He is human. A boy dealing with depression. Dealing with feelings of inadequacy, both in his father’s eyes and among his peers. He doesn’t have any REAL friends and is constantly dealing with ridicule from others because he looks different. His mother is from Iran, but he was born in America, with an American father. He doesn’t really feel a connection with either side of his heritage, though.
When his family learns that his mother’s father has a brain tumor, they all decide to take a trip to Iran to see her family, a family that Darius has only ever known from Skype conversations. There in Iran, he learns so much about his Persian heritage, but he still feels like he isn’t enough, feelings that are exacerbated by his depression. But, there he meets Sohrab, wit whom he makes an immediate connection with. His first true friend helps him navigate through his trip and accepts him for who he is. He lets Darius feel all the emotions that others don’t approve of. He accepts him with such a wonderful kindness.
This was such an amazing read. I knew little to nothing about Iranian cultures. And this audiobook and the incredible narration by Michael Levi Harris helped totally set the pace. There were so many things that I wouldn’t have understood, that with his smooth pronunciations, tone and dialect, made this feel like a fully immersive story.
The last thing I want to touch on is the feeling of community I got when listening (and reading, as I followed along through the ENTIRE story in the physical book as well) to this story. You are brought into this world of Darius the Great through so many levels. Him and his father dealing with their sometimes tumultuous relationship. The fact that they both suffer from depression. That was rough to read about, but so necessary. I respect so much that Khorram was writing from experience. And also, the sweet tender nature of Darius. He was such a great character who pulled such strong and tangible emotions from he throughout this story. I cannot wait to see what is in store for Darius in the next book.