Heartbreaking Yet Moving | Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Friday, August 24, 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: 8/28/18
Pages: 320
Source: BEA
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 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.
Darius is about to embark on his first trip to Iran with his family. He meets his heartwarming grandmother, his ailing, yet amazing grandfather, and the boy next door, Sohrab. Sohrab changes everything. Adib Khorram’s debut, Darius the Great is Not Okay, is a spectacular coming of age novel of friendship and family that is sure to move you.

  • Darius' narrative is compelling and realistic. There are moments of stream of consciousness where readers are swept along into his mind. The flow is almost rhythmic. It certainly makes it hard to put down.
  • With all the references to Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, my fangirl heart was truly happy. I thought I was the only read who read the appendixes of Lord of the Rings. In Darius, it is extremely easy to find pieces of yourself, whether its his love of several fandoms or his struggle to fit in. 
  • It's absolutely wonderful to have a protagonist with Middle Eastern heritage. The diverse cast of characters in Darius the Great is Not Okay is fantastic. Most of the book is set in Iran which brings a phenomenal heartbreaking story that every reader can relate to. The descriptions of the setting truly transports readers. There’s a moment in the book where Darius is atop a rooftop, watching the sky above the cityscape. Khorram’s phenomenal writing takes readers to that exact spot. 
  • Darius struggles with his cultural identity. It's not something we usually come across in YA novels. He refers to himself as a fractional Persian. His struggle in fitting in, in any country, gives readers a new perspective but also educates them on this real issue that plagues many of bicultural identity. This poignant novel begins a lot of important discussions.
  • The repetition of Darius’ narrative made the story intentional and powerful. It pulls at your heartstrings. By the end, every single character had a place in your heart. But most of all, Darius shined in all his hilarious commentary. 
  • The friendship between Darius and Sohrab was like no other. It was patient and kind, yet passionate and endearing. It surprised me that there was absolutely no romance—which is rare in young adult literature. Instead, Darius is friendship-centric, developing these two characters around the blossoming relationship they have together.
  • There is a trigger warning for clinical depression, some suicidal thoughts, and bullying.
  • I knew the ending was inevitable. Yet, I was still surprised at how abrupt it was. Just as the title admits, I was not okay. The last few chapters were able to fill me with hope and I left the book feeling content and blown away by a story that made me feel everything from joy to sadness. 

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a coming of age story that will stir its readers. The friendship, Darius' family dynamic, and the diversity in this book is truly remarkable. This debut goes above and beyond with a masterful plot that is both easy to relate to and heartbreaking.

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