Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: August 28th 2018
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 a Fractional Persian – half, his mom’s side – and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home in Portland, and he just knows things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Sohrab introduces Darius to all of his favourite things—mint syrup and the soccer field and a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. 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, friends don’t have to talk. 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.
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Darius knows his grandfather is dying but when his only relationship with him is through Skype, what with Darius living in Portland and his grandparents living in Yazd, it’s hard to know what to feel. When Darius and his family travel to Iran Darius knows he isn’t going to fit in, he doesn’t speak Farsi like his mum and younger sister do and trying to explain his medication to his extended family is a battle he doesn’t want to face, but when Darius meets Sohrab things improve.
Recently I’d started hearing amazing things about Darius the Great is Not Okay, so before going into this book my expectations were high, but it ended up being just as amazing as everyone had been saying. The main story arc in Darius the Great is Not Okay is around focused on Darius’s character development; his depression, his discovery of his Persian heritage, his growing relationship with his extended family, and his friendship with Sohrab.
In Sohrab Darius has a best friend for the first time in his life, someone he can be comfortable with, even if that means sitting in silence together. The days Darius spend in Yazd pass and we watch him grow more comfortable with his Fractional Persian heritage as he explores all the city has to offer – from football to secret rooftops which overlook the city – with Sohrab, but there are still times where his depression, his feelings of not belonging, seem overwhelming.
While I don’t normally read character-focused books (you don’t get that many of them in the fantasy genre, which is what I read the most) I do love them if they’re well written, and Darius the Great is Not Okay is one of the best I’ve read. I sped through this book because even though there wasn’t much of a plot in a traditional sense reading Darius’s journey and development over the course of the time he spent in Yazd kept me hooked.
Darius was so well developed, I loved his voice as he told his story, and he felt like a real person more than a character in a book I was reading. He’s being bullied by one of the boys he goes to school with, but Darius tries not to let them see if their words and taunts hit their mark. I loved how he called his bully “Fatty Bolger” after one of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings, I loved how he was a fan of Star Trek, and I really loved his dedication to all things tea.
Depression is something Darius has been dealing with for a while, but it’s something he’s managing through medication. It felt very raw and real how the subject was dealt with, how sometimes the little things people said or did that they wouldn’t think anything of would hit Darius differently. I liked how open Darius was in his mind about his depression and what he was feeling because I feel like it made the representation in this book that little bit better.
Before Sohrab Darius never had a best friend and I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop. One of the things I loved most about this book was how the relationship between Darius and Sohrab never turned into a romance, I think we need more books which focus on platonic friendship because those bonds are just as important as romantic ones.
In Darius’s mind Sohrab is sure of his place in Iran, sure of his culture and heritage, which at times Darius envies. Sohrab draws Darius in but the two of them match, and always seem to know what the other needs. Like Darius never had a friend before Sohrab Sohrab never had a friend before Darius, judged because of his religion, and it was great seeing these two lonely and lost characters come together knowing instantly they’d be best friends.
The relationship between Darius and his family is possibly my favourite part of this book. The dynamic he has with his dad is a distant one, Darius can feel the divide between them and it grows when it seems like he’s being judged on everything he does and found wanting. Darius’s extended family all live in Yazd, and Darius has never been a part of their lives in a way his mother and sister who can speak Farsi have, but the distance and the language barrier doesn’t seem to affect the love his grandparents show him, or how keen they are to introduce Darius to as much of his Persian heritage as they can.
I don’t normally talk about the setting the YA contemporary books, but reading about Yazd and Darius’s Persian heritage needs to be talked about because it was incredible. Even before Darius and his family travelled to Iran we got a lot of detail to the different holidays and celebrations, and the community of Persian’s in Portland Darius’s family is a part of. Once in Yazd there’s a lot more to the country and his heritage Darius takes in, and it was brilliantly written in that it allowed me as a reader to almost take it in as well. There was so much detail given to the culture in this book, and the descriptions of tea and food never failed to make me hungry.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is an incredible book and one I’d highly recommend, honestly I don’t think there was one aspect of the story I didn’t love. This was a book that made me laugh and nearly cry, and there was also a lot about Darius I could identify with, especially when it came to his struggle with his mental health.
What did you think of Darius the Great is Not Okay? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.