Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram was released on August 28, 2018. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA. And what’s more? Darius the Great is Not Okay is the Indigo Teen Staff Pick of the Month for September! The Indigo Teen Staff Pick of the Month (Teen SPOTM) is a fun program that Indigo launched last September that highlights a great title chosen by store staff every month.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review.
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, and he’s sure 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. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s 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.
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. And while this book certainly evoked plenty of emotions, and told a brilliant story of friendship, family, and tradition, it lacked a conclusion.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is a story that is entirely character driven, which places a heavy importance on the characters themselves. Darius Kellner is the main character of this story, but his family and his newfound friend Sohrab are also integral players in this story. Darius is what he likes to call a “Fractional Persian” – his mother was born and raised in Iran, but his dad is a white American. And he feels like he’s never fit in anywhere – he’s a big disappointment to his dad, his schoolmates casually throw racial slurs his way, and his depression catches him in loops of negative thoughts when he least expects it, making him feel as though he’ll never be more than an inconvenience. Then, Darius’ family makes a trip to Iran to visit his dying grandfather, and Darius meets Sohrab, the teenage neighbor of his grandparents – and for the first time, Darius begins to feel as though he’s more than an inconvenience.
There were a lot of things I really liked about this book, from the representation of mental health to the focus on family, but by far the thing I loved most about the book was the focus on culture. While I am not Iranian, I have had a sneak peek into the world Darius finds himself immersed in – my boyfriend’s family is Baha’i and his stepfather hails from Iran, so I often found myself excitedly calling out at references to tarof, Baha’i celebrations, and city names I recognized, such as Shiraz and Yazd. And I found my heart breaking as I learned more about Sohrab’s family, and the prosecution of the Baha’i living in Iran. Khorram really investigated the role culture and tradition played in Darius feeling like he just didn’t quite belong – both in America and in Iran – and the impact that culture and tradition have had on his life and the lives of those around him.
Overall, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram isn’t a book about the story, or about the conclusion – it’s about finding a place in the world when you feel like you’re nothing but a social outcast. More importantly, it’s about clinical depression. It’s about Darius’ journey as he navigates friendship, family, and tradition (4/5).