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.
“Heartfelt, tender, and so utterly real. I’d live in this book forever if I could.”
—Becky Albertalli, award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he's not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
Read an Excerpt
My grandmother loomed large on the monitor, her head tiny and her torso enormous.
I only ever saw my grandparents from an up-the-nose perspective.
She was talking to Laleh in rapid-fire Farsi, something about school, I thought, because Laleh kept switching from Farsi to English for words like cafeteria and Heads-Down, Thumbs-Up.
Mamou’s picture kept freezing and unfreezing, occasionally turning into chunky blocks as the bandwidth fluctuated.
It was like a garbled transmission from a starship in distress. “Maman,” Mom said, “Darius and Stephen want to say hello.” Maman is another Farsi word that means both a person and a relationship—in this case, mother. But it could also mean grandmother, even though technically that would be mamanbozorg.
I was pretty sure maman was borrowed from French, but Mom would neither confirm nor deny.
Dad and I knelt on the floor to squeeze our faces into the camera shot, while Laleh sat on Mom’s lap in her rolling office chair.
“Eh! Hi, maman! Hi, Stephen! How are you?”
“Hi, Mamou,” Dad said.
“Hi,” I said.
“I miss you, maman. How is your school? How is work?”
“Um.” I never knew how to talk to Mamou, even though I was happy to see her.
It was like I had this well inside me, but every time I saw Mamou, it got blocked up. I didn’t know how to let my feelings out.
“School is okay. Work is good. Um.”
“How is Babou?” Dad asked.
“You know, he is okay,” Mamou said. She glanced at Mom and said, “Jamsheed took him to the doctor today.”
As she said it, my uncle Jamsheed appeared over her shoulder. His bald head looked even tinier. “Eh! Hi, Darioush! Hi, Laleh! Chetori toh?”
“Khoobam, merci,” Laleh said, and before I knew it, she had launched into her third retelling of her latest game of Heads-Down, Thumbs-Up.
Dad smiled and waved and stood up. My knees were getting sore, so I did the same, and edged toward the door.
Mom nodded along with Laleh and laughed at all the right spots while I followed Dad back down to the living room.
It wasn’t like I didn’t want to talk to Mamou.
I always wanted to talk to her.
But it was hard. It didn’t feel like she was half a world away, it felt like she was half a universe away—like she was coming to me from some alternate reality.
It was like Laleh belonged to that reality, but I was just a guest.
I suppose Dad was a guest too. At least we had that in common.
Dad and I sat all the way through the ending credits—that was part of the tradition too—and then Dad went upstairs to check on Mom.
Laleh had wandered back down during the last few minutes of the show, but she stood by the Haft-Seen, watching the goldfish swim in their bowl.
Dad makes us turn our end table into a Haft-Seen on March 1 every year. And every year, Mom tells him that’s too early. And every year, Dad says it’s to get us in the Nowruz spirit, even though Nowruz—the Persian New Year—isn’t until the first day of spring.
Most Haft-Seens have vinegar and sumac and sprouts and apples and pudding and dried olives and garlic on them—all things that start with the sound of S in Farsi. Some people add other things that don’t begin with S to theirs too: symbols of renewal and prosperity, like mirrors and bowls of coins. And some families—like ours—have goldfish too. Mom said it had something to do with the zodiac and Pisces, but then she admitted that if it weren’t for Laleh, who loved taking care of the goldfish, she wouldn’t include them at all.
Sometimes I thought Dad liked Nowruz more than the rest of us combined.
Maybe it let him feel a little bit Persian. Maybe it did.
So our Haft-Seen was loaded with everything tradition allowed, plus a framed photo of Dad in the corner. Laleh insisted we had to add it, because Stephen begins with the sound of S.
It was hard to argue with my sister’s logic. “Darius?”
“This goldfish only has one eyeball!”
I knelt next to Laleh as she pointed at the fish in question. “Look!”
It was true. The largest fish, a leviathan nearly the size of Laleh’s hand, only had its right eye. The left side of its head— face—(do fish have faces?)—was all smooth, unbroken orange scales.
“You’re right,” I said. “I didn’t notice that.”
“I’m going to name him Ahab.”
Since Laleh was in charge of feeding the fish, she had also taken upon herself the solemn duty of naming them.
“Captain Ahab had one leg, not one eye,” I pointed out. “But it’s a good literary reference.”
Laleh looked up at me, her eyes big and round. I was kind of jealous of Laleh’s eyes. They were huge and blue, just like Dad’s. Everyone always said how beautiful Laleh’s eyes were.
No one ever told me I had beautiful brown eyes, except Mom, which didn’t count because (a) I had inherited them from her, and (b) she was my mom, so she had to say that kind of thing. Just like she had to call me handsome when that wasn’t true at all.
“Are you making fun of me?”
“No,” I said. “I promise. Ahab is a good name. And I’m proud of you for knowing it. It’s from a very famous book.”
“Moby the Whale!”
I could not bring myself to say Moby-Dick in front of my little sister.
“What about the others?”
“He’s Simon.” She pointed to the smallest fish. “And he’s Garfunkel. And that’s Bob.”
I wondered how Laleh was certain they were male fish.
I wondered how people identified male fish from female fish. I decided I didn’t want to know.
“Those are all good names. I like them.” I leaned down to kiss Laleh on the head. She squirmed but didn’t try that hard to get away. Just like I had to pretend I didn’t like having tea parties with my little sister, Laleh had to pretend she didn’t like kisses from her big brother, but she wasn’t very good at pretending yet.
I took my empty cup of genmaicha to the kitchen and washed and dried it by hand. Then I filled a regular glass with water from the fridge and went to the cabinet where we kept everyone’s medicine. I sorted through the orange capsules until I found my own.
“Mind grabbing mine?” Dad asked from the door. “Sure.”
Dad stepped into the kitchen and slid the door closed. It was this heavy wooden door, on a track so that it slid into a slot right behind the oven. I didn’t know anyone else who had a door like that.
When I was little, and Dad had just introduced me to Star Trek, I liked to call it the Turbolift Door. I played with it all the time, and Dad played too, calling out deck numbers for the computer to take us to like we were really on board the Enterprise.
Then I accidentally slid the door shut on my fingers, really hard, and ended up sobbing for ten minutes in pain and shock that the door had betrayed me.
I had a very sharp memory of Dad yelling at me to stop crying so he could examine my hand, and how I wouldn’t let him hold it because I was afraid he was going to make it worse.
Dad and I didn’t play with the door anymore after that.
I pulled down Dad’s bottle and set it on the counter, then popped the lid off my own and shook out my pills.
Dad and I both took medication for depression.
Aside from Star Trek—and not speaking Farsi—depression was pretty much the only thing we had in common. We took different medications, but we did see the same doctor, which I thought was kind of weird. I guess I was paranoid Dr. Howell would talk about me to my dad, even though I knew he wasn’t supposed to do that kind of thing. And Dr. Howell was always honest with me, so I tried not to worry so much.
I took my pills and gulped down the whole glass of water. Dad stood next to me, watching, like he was worried I was going to choke. He had this look on his face, the same disappointed look he had when I told him about how Fatty Bolger had replaced my bicycle’s seat with blue truck nuts.
He was ashamed of me. He was ashamed of us.
Übermensches aren’t supposed to need medication.
Dad swallowed his pills dry; his prominent Teutonic Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he did it. And then he turned to me and said, “So, you heard that Babou went to the doctor today?”
He looked down. A Level Three Awkward Silence began to coalesce around us, like interstellar hydrogen pulled together by gravity to form a new nebula.
“Yeah. Um.” I swallowed. “For his tumor?” I still felt weird saying the word out loud. Tumor.
Babou had a brain tumor.
Dad glanced at the turbolift door, which was still closed, and then back to me. “His latest tests didn’t look good.”
“Oh.” I had never met Babou in person, only over a computer screen. And he never really talked to me. He spoke English well enough, and what few words I could extract from him were accented but articulate.
He just didn’t have much to say to me.
I guess I didn’t have much to say to him either. “He’s not going to get better, Darius. I’m sorry.” I twisted my glass between my hands.
I was sorry too. But not as sorry as I should have been. And I felt kind of terrible for it.
The thing is, my grandfather’s presence in my life had been purely photonic up to that point. I didn’t know how to be sad about him dying.
Like I said, the well inside me was blocked. “What happens now?”
“Your mom and I talked it over,” Dad said. “We’re going to Iran.”
Excerpted from "Darius the Great Is Not Okay"
Copyright © 2018 Adib Khorram.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is fantastic. Darius is a very compelling main character I couldn't help but care about. I also appreciated the different kind of depression rep we got in this book. So often we have characters who haven't been diagnosed yet and certainly aren't on a prescription for it, but Darius was because it runs in his family. It was very well done. I also loved the friendship in this book, and the quietness of this book. The friendship was wonderful because just because Darius is gay doesn't mean he has to have a relationship with any available guy he loves. A character doesn't need a romance or relationship to be queer, and this book got that. Darius is also fat, and I know from other people just how much this meant to them. And then Darius as this Iranian-American teen going to Iran and struggling with feeling like he belongs. It was all very powerful and very well put together. Highly Recommend.
Loved this book so much!
Though it takes a little bit for the action to pick up in author Adib Khorram's debut work, much like the titular protagonist in this young adult coming-of-age novel, great things come both to Darius as well as the patient readers who wait. Bursting with vivid imagery and a wholly original first-person point-of-view right from the start, Darius the Great is Not Okay - about a half Persian, half Caucasian teenager who travels with his family to visit his maternal grandparents for the first time in Iran - is sure to be one of the genre's breakout successes of 2018. A timely, fresh, and relatable character driven work, the book centers on Darius Kellner's search for that one place in which he fits. Understanding the complexity of being a teenager, Adib Khorram tackles Darius Kellner's "outsider" status from a variety of perspectives bound to ring true to readers from envying his younger sister's relationship with his father to being bullied or ridiculed on two continents. Finding a true friend in the last place he expected, which causes him to learn more about himself in the process, Darius the Great's sensitivity and commitment to the people on and off the page makes it a standout for Fall. Note: I would've given this 4.5 stars, if able.
People who have read my reviews on other sites know that I generally review both as a reader and a librarian. So that's what I'll stick to here. Librarian: I will most likely order a copy of this book for my library. We're always looking for books set in non American/Western European cultures, and this one fits the bill nicely. By providing readers with an American protagonist, they were able to give us a better amount of insight into the story then we otherwise might have. Reader: I had trouble getting into this one. That could very well be because I'm not the target audience, but I found it a bit slow. Still it was enjoyable enough once I got reading, even if it's not my preferred genre.
WOW, this book was a phenomenal one-day read for me. It does a brilliant job of exploring issues of culture, heritage, family, discrimination, and clinical depression, with an excellent balance of heart and humor that will have you laughing one moment and dropping the floor out from under you the next. The alternation between the character's "American" name, Darius, and the original Persian version, Darioush, is an incredibly powerful choice on the author's part, it represents the core of the character's struggle of feeling caught between two worlds, and people's inconsistent expectations of what he should be. He was born in America, but his mother's entire family is in Iran. He loves Star Trek, but is also a tea aficionado. He doesn't speak Farsi, but his little sister does, though they both share an intense love for Persian desserts. His very white father shares his diagnosis of clinical depression, but has very specific ideas about how a "normal" boy should handle it and present himself. When he visits Iran and befriends Sohrab, I appreciated how that introduced another opportunity to discuss discrimination. Darius is struck by how in Portland, Persians of all kinds come together in harmony because there aren't many of them around, but in Iran, despite being a full Persian, Sohrab's family faces discrimination and brutality because of their Baha'i faith. This book is a bridge between cultures, because Darius himself is a bridge. His often-humorous internal musings address social cues, food, games, as well as language nuances (like how his mom never would confirm if Farsi borrowed a bunch of words from French). His humor is based largely in science fiction and fantasy culture (TONS of Star Trek and Lord of the Rings references) that will resonate with fans of those genres while introducing them to possibly new concepts that are firmly based in reality. The way this book presents depression has been hailed as accurate and powerful by readers who also have depression. Though I can't speak for that myself, I found it to be poignant - it's a daily part of his life, it can strike without warning, but Darius has come to terms with the fact that it doesn't define him. In fact, though he wishes people understood him better, Darius never demonstrates an inclination to change himself for people, which I thought was excellent. He doesn't fit squarely into one box, and is okay with that internally, he just wishes everyone else would be too. I highly recommend this book!
Won Paperback ARC from BookishFirst.com! Darius the Great is Not Okay was a very enjoyable read. Darius is a Fractional Persian (he's half) and lives in Portland, Oregon with his family. He's the least Persian Persian he knows. He has depression for "no reason, nothing bad has ever happened to him" and he has no friends. He doesn't get along with his father except for 47 minutes every night when they watch an episode of Star Trek together. Darius's babou (grandfather) has a brain tumor and isn't doing well so the family heads to Iran to visit and Darius meets his grandparents/uncles/aunts/cousins for the first time. And for the first time, Darius makes a friend. A friend who truly understands him, without words. This book was beautiful and sad and funny and heartwarming. Darius experiences so many new things and it's a joy to see. Darius mentions Star Trek and Lord of the Rings a LOT and it's adorably funny. He's a big nerd and he shouldn't change.
Content Warning: Bigot Bullies, Fat Shaming, Ableism against mental health issues, I love it. LOVED IT. Every character and moment. EVERY PART OF IT. I couldn't stop reading it. I absolutely bawled several times. Like, harder and deeper than any of John Green's work could ever. I needed this as a teen. I needed this now. The struggle with depression and not fitting in and feeling like you're just on a whole nother wavelength from everyone else and insecurity with family is SO FUCKING REAL. It's not a romance. There's no kissing or touching. No declaration or love letters. But there's a connection, a feeling, realization, and hope. It's lowkey quiet type of relationship that just gets each other that's very relatable, especially for queer people. It's a realistic coming of age where nothing's really different but everything has shifted at the end. Includes: adorable little sister like Kitty from TATBILB by Jenny Han, meeting long distance grandparents in failing health, bigot bullies, silent tough-love fat-shaming father, resilient affectionate mother, Persian food and celebrations, tons of sci-fi and fantasy references, historical sightseeing, American soccer/International football, locker room bullying, Absolute must read of YA contemporary fans. I really hope this blows up the way it deserves to and we get more from Khorram as soon as possible!!!
Darius The Great Is Not Okay.....a wonderful title to a really good book. Author Adib Khorram brings us a contemporary YA book that is unique and chock full of culture with some LGBTQ elements to it. It's a wonderful read from start to end. So much Persian culture in this book...the story is unique that we see the life of this young person and as he maneuvers his way back into a world he is technically from but does not know first hand about. There is so much to learn as the character in this story....so much to learn as the reader of this book. Darius a very young man...coming of age...trying to figure himself out....now has to figure out not only who he is as an individual but also who he is as a Persian American....in a world so far from what he has been accustomed to. Life in Iran is not an easy one especially when you've grown accustomed to American ways.....and Darius is a wonderful character for us to see through the eyes of..as he copes...and discovers more about himself. Darius is such an endearing character..it's so easy to fall in love with him....to root for him....to want to see how he turns out....and how he makes his way. Highly recommend. Thanks to author Adib Khorram and to Dial books for my free copy of this book via giveaway. I received. I read. I reviewed this book with honesty and voluntarily.
Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite book. I cannot stop telling everyone about this fantastic debut! Darius is a sweetly awkward 15 year old Iranian American who doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. He loves tea and Star Trek. He’s bullied at school and he’s on medication for depression. His relationship with his dad, who is white, is strained. I could not have rooted for him harder! When the family learns his maternal grandfather is dying, they head to Iran where Darius experiences what it is like to be known and loved by his extended family for the first time and he meets Sohrab who becomes his first true friend. The writing is rich and evocative, especially when describing Persian food (drooling right now) and relationship dynamics. One moment I’d be chuckling and tearing up the next. I loved watching Darius figure out where he belonged and especially how the arcs with with his father and with Sohrab resolved. So moving! The #ownvoices depiction of depression as an every day part of life that’s being managed was refreshing—something I could have used when I was a teenager. I loved every part of this story and can’t wait to see what Khorram does next. Disclosure: I received an advance copy from Bookish First in exchange for an honest review.
Darius The Great is Not Okay is a story that will make you want to love and cherish everyone you know. A had such a good time reading this book, I related to the story in so many ways. I recently came back from vacation and everything that happened in this story was exactly like my trip. it was almost like I was supposed to read it. What I loved most about this book was the way it was so well written, the writing style is so easy and everything flowed together perfectly. Even the dialogue is pretty great! It was so close to being a 5 star read but I didn't like some of the repetition that was being used all the time. I also started to drift off close to the end but the ending was so good and emotional that I ended up crying. Overall this was a great book and I definitely recommend it!
I knew going into this book that I was going to love but I was not expecting to LOVE it. Like one of the best books I have read love it (and sorry CBB, I am handing your crown of best book of the year over to Darius). The main reason why I love it was that I understand what Darius is going through. I understand the questions and not always getting social cues and finding your best friend. I cried during the last 50 pages. I have never done that while reading a book before. I teared up when Rue died, I felt sad at the ending of The Book Thief but I never *cried*. So I can no longer call be a called a heartless wench by my best friend, even though she totally will still. Don’t read this book on an empty stomach. After a really big meal because this is the type of book that you want to read in one sitting. I almost did but work got in the way so I had to finish it the next day. But to the point that I was really trying to make is that the food descriptions are amazing. I want to eat it all and since this is contemporary I actually can!!! I am hoping to make Faludeh, a dessert made with rose water syrup and noodles made from rice or potato starch, and I love anything rose water so I have high hopes for it. And Darius has a real love of tea, though the traditional way to make Persian tea is to put cardamon which I don’t exactly care for so I think we would make different types of tea; point being the love for tea is still there. And speaking of love, this book was spoken of as a similar one to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I do see the similarities, both Darius and Aristotle find friendship and themselves through the book. However, unlike Aristotle, Darius comes to the realization of how much he does love Sohrab but he doesn’t really approach this to the extent that Aristotle did. But don’t get me wrong the ending was heartfelt and I liked how it helped Darius with overcoming his depression. As of right now and to my knowledge, this is a standalone but there is so much room to continue Darius’s story and I would love to read more about him.
I'm always a big fan of a good coming-of-age story and Darius the Great hits the right notes. Dealing with bullying and fitting in as a teenager play a big role in this novel. Great to see how this impacts Darius in the U.S. all the way to Iran when he goes and visits his grandparents for the first time. Darius has a great voice and is a well-rounded character. A nice bonus was seeing his love of Lord of the Rings and the novel having several nods to the franchise due to this love. Friendship and family play a huge role in this novel. Watching his relationship develop with Sohrab is a joy to read. The family dynamic is great and has a larger focus than a lot of YA novels. I loved the numerous family interactions and how each member revealed something different about Darius. If you love YA contemporary, you don't want to miss out on this one!
I think the sign of a good book is it makes you learn something, or want to continue to learn something. In this books case it did both. It really made me want to learn more about the tea process, Iran, and Star Trek. I was very happy to see that there was no love story, or any insta-love in it. Plus it was great that it was a stand-alone novel.
Books like these demonstrate why representation and diversity are so important in fiction. I had entered the book anticipating it to as a cute romance, but I found myself surprised yet untroubled by its absence (I mean, there are some hints at romantic feelings, but you have to squint as much as Sohrab to really see it). Rather than focus on romance, the story is centered on identity and Darius's struggle with depression. By the end of the book, I had a river of tears streaming down my face. Protagonists such as Darius are rare finds, yet he is the most authentic character I've read about in a long time. His pain, his anger, and his worry are all palpable and easy for readers to recognize their own emotions in. No matter who you are, you'll find yourself drawn into this story and no matter whether you are like the leading character or his exact opposite, you'll be able to learn something from this book. While I absolutely loved this book, one thing that might bug some readers is that the entire book kind of ignores the unofficial "show, don't tell" rule of writing fiction. While I'm sure a lot of readers will get annoyed by this, I surprisingly liked it. It took awhile to get used to, but I felt like it really worked for this story and I can see why the author chose to tell the story in this manner. Throughout the novel, readers are essentially trapped inside Darius's head the same way he is trapped by his depression. The writing style doesn't allow us to leave his head by showing us what is really happening and, instead Darius filters information to tell us his interpretation of events and individuals. It really places the reader in his position which works perfectly for the message this book delivers. It sounds weird, and I'm sure many others will disagree, but I really appreciated it.
The story itself is great, but I really love how the majority of the book takes place in Iran. There are not a lot of books out there that discuss Iranian culture and this one seems to do a good job of it.
Immerse yourself in Iran There is so much to like about Darius the Great. It transported me to Iran. I vicariously enjoyed all of the teas that Darius loves to make and to drink. The awkward family relationships made me feel as though I was in the midst of similar long distance visits. It was great to have depression dealt with openly from Darius and his dad, openly asserting to other that depression is a chemical imbalance. What I really wish that I could have avoided however was the overuse of three words. If I never have to read the words uh, um, or squint ever again, I will be just fine. At one point I thought that I should go back and count the number of times each of those three words was used, but it would have been an exercise in torture. These words were just like fingernails scratching a blackboard. Please fix this. This book really was interesting in so many ways, so I want to end by emphasizing that reading Darius the Great is worth it just to learn a little about Iran.
Don't Miss This Book! Readers of any gender or age will enjoy it. Don't let the Young Adult category keep you from experiencing this unique tale. My first impression of it when I read an advance reader's copy from Penguin Random House was correct: it is wonderful. I can picture this novel made into a movie which will be an enduring classic, much like the old black and white "To Kill a Mockingbird." ! The coming-of-age story for Darius is unique, funny (at times), sad (at times), but always true to the voice of teenage Darius. So many times when I have been disappointed in books that I've bought, I think, "All I want is a good story." And that's what this boo about Darius is. I like the fact that it is totally realistic without being too heavy handed in any direction. There are funny moments, awkward teenage moments, frustration with one's family coupled with anger when an outsider criticizes or makes fun of those same things. Nothing is perfect (whose life is?) but it is not all bad. I have already told several family members and friends that this is a MUST read. Male or female readers will laugh and sigh right along with Darius.
From beginning to end, I absolutely loved this story. Darius’ narrative voice is quirky and real. The plot is simple, serving more as a character study. This story is one of the best depictions of the inner dialogue of depression I have ever seen in text. In his protagonist, Adib Khorram has created a teenage voice we need today. Darius is a relatable narrator as he pursues his father’s respect and seeks to find his place in the world. This is not a plot-driven text. In fact, I bet some readers will say this novel has no plot, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. That’s because the plot serves as a backdrop to the actual development, which exists in the characters. I don’t often enjoy character-driven stories, especially when they’re written for a young adult audience. However, in this book, Khorram successfully creates a story that isn’t dependent on the action. And the plot that is there serves the extra purpose of educating the audience--who, like me, may have very little knowledge of Iranian culture. Since the plot is non-existent, it is easy for me to say that I totally love the characters. This is where Khorram flourishes, where he works his magic. Every character, whether central or peripheral, is extraordinarily unique. This is an artistic feat, and Khorram certainly has the talent for it. Darius is a fantastic narrator. He has a super specific voice, full of nerdy/geeky witticisms, and all of his authentic dialogue makes his character very relatable. The specificities in his interests brought him to life. Also, the way he speaks of himself is a fairly accurate depiction of depression and how it can work on and in the mind. In him, we have a first-hand perspective of an internal dialogue that is telling lies. And the use of this voice is powerful, both in making a connection to the reader and in establishing a purpose for where the story goes. All around, Darius is an awesome lead role. I could rave equally about all the other characters. Sohrab is an adorable addition. He reminds me so much of my best friend when I was Darius’ age. He’s the perfect balance for our narrator, and yet he still feels authentic. And he’s the attentive friend we all need. Darius’ parents are great--even though his dad frustrated me. They felt like real parents, just like his little sister felt like a real little sister. Plus, I learned so much from the rest of the characters. As I’ve said, each one had a unique personality (I want my own Maman. I have Grandmas, but a Maman sounds so unbelievably wonderful).
I like come-of-age stories, and "Darius the Great is not Okay" really captivated me. I enjoyed learning about Darius Kellner and his adventures in the sense of belonging - to a place, to a country, to the world. He goes on a trip with his family to Iran, and in the middle of it ends up learning a lot about family, friendship, belonging, and being yourself - in a sense, it was a journey of self-discovery more than a journey to get to know his grandparents or his mother's home country. Nothing major happens in the book - which doesn't stop it from being a nice read to get to know more about yourself and rethink how you see yourself and others. There's also some fun parts, and geek parts, that will make you learn more about this interesting character.
Unique I really enjoyed reading this book! Darius, aka Darioush, is a great main character! The way he describes his life and things around him are unique and sometimes hilarious. At times, I felt so bad for him and his situation. Not only does Darius suffer from depression, but his feels like his father is too overbearing and does not understand him. He is also part Persian and feels that in some ways he is too Persian and in some ways not Persian enough. These feelings become even more confused when his family goes to Iran to visit/meet his Persian family and grandfather who has a brain tumor. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to know more about living with depression, some of the signs of depression, anyone who is from a lowly-represented culture, and those who want to know more about grief and grieving.
A Really Sweet Read Ahh this is such a sweet book. It's heartfelt, funny, endearing, sad, loving ... all the feels. I loved every minute of his fast-paced story of a boy doing his best in life, trying to fit in, and just feel like he's good enough. Darius Kellner has some big shoes to fill with his namesake, a king from ancient Persia. But Darius seems to just have trouble finding the right shoes to wear. The right things to say, the right way to look, the right way to not disappoint his dad. He's definitely a target for bullies, being from Iran alone he's taunted at every turn, he doesn't have any friends, and he's being treated for depression. His dad, the "Ubermensch," also clinically depressed, gives him a hard time about his weight and not standing up for himself. He just can't seem to fit in anywhere. When his mom learns that her father (Darius' Grandfather - he's never met any of his Iranian family other than via Skype) is dying from a brain tumor, they decided to make the trip to say goodbye - and Darius worries about fitting in again, with a whole new family and culture. They trip is eye-opening and just might change his life. Darius is one of those characters you just want to reach in the book and grab and hug. His parents are frustrating - but what teenager doesn't think that? His little sister is adorable but it saddens Darius how well she fits in and he doesn't. The entire family in Iran is so colorfully wonderful and I gobbled up all the culture and descriptions of the settings, the architecture, the culture - the FOOD! I need to try ALL of these things STAT! I loved this book. It was a fast paced heartwarming debut. Bravo to Adib Khorram!
Darius Kellner is what he likes to call a Fractional Persian as his mother was born and raised in Iran but his dad is white. Although he has a nightly ritual of watching Star Trek reruns with his father, the rest of the time Darius feels like he is a big disappointment to his dad. The family makes a trip to Iran to visit relatives and there Darius meets Sohrab, the teenage neighbor of his grandparents. This is a YA story of feeling like you don't belong and learning to accept who you are. I really enjoyed the author's subtle approach in regards to certain topics which in my opinion makes it stand out among other books in the genre. I don't think everything always has to be spelled out for the reader or every loose end wrapped up in order to appreciate a story. By far the thing I loved most about the book was the focus on culture and the role it played in Darius feeling like he just didn't quite belong. I liked how the book explored the different relationships Darius had with family members and thought having not just Darius but his father also deal with mental health issues really added to the story. Definitely recommend especially if you are looking to hear from a voice that isn't commonly represented in fiction. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
"Your place was empty..." The book is about a boy who is half Persian, obsessed with tea and enjoys a single episode of Star Trek every night with his dad. Darius doesn't feel like he fits in with his classmates and he doesn't fit with his family in Iran. His classmates bully him and his father always seems disappointed in him. When he has to go to Iran to see his ailing grandfather he is excited and worried. He didn't learn Farsi like his younger sister and his mother tells him that family in Iran won't really understand his depression. He gets to know his grandmother and grandfather who he previously only ever saw or talked to on a computer screen. He makes a friend and it may be the best thing that happens to him. When he explains how he doesn't fit anywhere his new friend tells him that his place was empty for everyone he met in Iran. His place was empty and now it is filled because he is there. That stuck with me the most after reading this book. Maybe he didn't fit like he assumed he should but now he was a part of their lives and that filled a hole he didn't know was there. I loved all of the references to Tolkien and Star Trek. I even chose a LoTR bookmark before I knew how relevant that would be. Big thanks to Bookish First for providing a copy to review.
Great Book! "Suicide isn't the only way you can lose someone to depression." Darius the Great Is Not Okay was such a heartfelt, raw book. Darius, feeling alone and shut out by his family, goes on a family trip to Iran to visit his grandfather. There he meets Sohrab. We are able to see the effects Darius' depression has on his life (social and family) and it makes for some real raw emotion. Sohrab helps Darius in the best way possible and finally gives him a place to fit in. This contemporary is certainly a trigger book but Adib does it so well. He deals with the tough issues head on and we get to fully understand and see how Darius heals himself and navigates healing relationships with his family. I've cried at so many parts in this book I can't even count. As someone who's dealing with depression, the thoughts, the actions, and the feelings are all real. I've learned so much about the Persian culture and a lot more about tea. I'm also proud to say that I got every Star Trek and Lord of the Rings reference, go nerds! A huge thank you to Dial Books for providing my copy through BookishFirst.
I LET DAD HOLD ME, LIKE THAT TINY POTATO-SACK VERSION OF MYSELF, SLEEPING ON HIS CHEST WHEN I WAS A BABY. “YOU’RE OKAY,” HE MURMURED. “NO. I’M NOT.” “I KNOW.” HE RUBBED MY BACK UP AND DOWN. “IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY.” This book has been on the top of my TBR for months. So when Penguin Teen contacted me about being a part of the official blog, I jumped at the chance. DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY has everything: a diverse main character, an accurate description and portrayal of mental illness, and realistic family dynamics. The 411: The son of a Persian woman and a Caucasian man, Darius has never felt like he belonged. He doesn’t speak Farsi. He’s not athletic or fit enough to please his seemingly alpha-male father. The only thing he appears to have in common with him is their daily ritual of taking their medication for depression. Darius would rather master the perfect pot of tea than be the captain of the football team and because of this, he feels even more isolated from his family, his school, and his community. When his maternal grandfather’s health begins to decline, Darius’ family makes the trip to Iran to visit before he passes. It’s there where he meets, Sohrab, the teenage neighbor to his grandparents. 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. DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY tackles a bunch of big issues: the stigma of mental illness, racism, fatphobia, sexual identity…and they’re all covered with a subtlety that feels perfected over the years vs. a debut novel. Sometimes books need to hit you over the head with the message and sometimes the strength of the moral is in the quiet. And that’s where DARIUS lives. Darius’ struggle with the feeling of not belonging felt overwhelmingly real and personal. I am not biracial, but an international adoptee who grew up in a largely white area and has often felt the sting of not belonging or being in between. Sohrab and Darius’ friendship melted my little heart. I loved seeing Darius feel a part of something for the first time. A place where he intrinsically fit in just because of the person he is. I hope everyone finds their Sohrab. And I hope that everyone has their moment when they are Darioush to someone. DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY is such a feel-good novel that I have a feeling will touch hearts everywhere. I’m incredibly excited to see where Khorram goes from here. We need more Dariuses in our lives. Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. This is his first novel. Thank you Penguin Teen for my copy of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY and the bag of Earl Grey Tea—it was the perfect accompaniment to this heartwarming novel.