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 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.
“It’s okay not to be okay.”
I usually try to be really formal with my reviews, but I can’t with this one. Darius the Great Is Not Okay is officially part of the exclusive club called “Books That Changed My Life.” How do you ask? You see Darius’ experiences are very similar to my own. He and I are very different, he is half-Persian and I am 100% Hispanic. However, it is his experiences of being part of two worlds and feeling like he does not belong to either of them really resonated with me.
The core of this story is: it is okay to not be okay, it is okay to feel all these negative feelings, it is okay to be vulnerable, it is okay to cry.
Darius suffers from depression that he inherited from his dad and constantly suffers from the effects it comes with the mental illness. But he continuously tries to be better and wants to be seen and understood. Yet it wasn’t until he visited Iran for the first time in his life that he was finally truly seen by someone, and it changed his life.
Mr. Khorram’s novel is not like other contemporary novels. His novel is raw and realistic. The problems did not magically get solved by love, nor by a stroke of luck. Honestly, all the problems were still present at the end of the novel but the various characters understood that having problems is okay because not everything has to be fixed.
I think what really resonated with me is how close Darius’ family is to each other, but at the same time Darius felt unwanted and an outsider in his own family bubble. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like in a novel before. Usually, the main character has a close family unit or a none existent one. It was fresh because I am exactly the same as Darius in that situation.
This novel is promoted as an LGBTQ+ story on twitter, and it is but it is not a romance novel per say. Darius is very much gay, and the reader can tell by the way he looks at boys compared to girls. However, this novel is not about Darius figuring out he is gay or having his first romance or coming out to his family (which I think his family already knows — especially his dad), and if you were expecting that you will be very disappointed. This shouldn’t stop you from reading this fantastic story, because it is so much more than that. It is hilarious, heartbreaking, gorgeous and inspiring.
This is a story about love. However, it is not romantic love. It is love in families and friendships and how important they are to use as individuals. It is a story reminding you that you are not alone.
“Everyone wants you here. We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody.”
“Your place was empty before. But this is your family. You belong here.”
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Dial Books
My Rating: 5/5