*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Publication Date: August 28, 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 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.
Well, I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy this book! I’m not usually a contemporary person, but wow this had me feeling all the emotions. This was such a surprisingly emotionally charged book and I was not ready for all the emotions to come pouring out of me at the end. Any book that can bring me to tears is a solid read in my mind.
Darius Kellner is a fractional Persian teen who deals with depression, bullies, and a father he can never seem to please. There’s also the fact that his little mom and little sister can speak Farsi, which makes him feel left out. The only things that keep him from completely unraveling are his passion for all things tea and Star Trek. He has never really experienced true friendship and constantly feels like he’s a target for everything bad in the world. If those things aren’t enough, his grandfather (whom he’s never met) is dying from brain cancer and he has to go to Iran with his family to see his grandparents for the first time.
Things all change when he meets Sohrab. Darius suddenly becomes Darioush and it makes him feel like a different person. He makes Darius feel seen and he isn’t afraid to be himself around Sohrab. The cloud that hangs over his head lifts a little and he feels like the world is a lot lighter when there is someone to share it with. Suddenly he’s doing things he could have never dreamed of, like playing soccer, sitting on rooftops, and talking for hours on end. He actually begins to live while he’s with Sohrab.
The theme of friendship runs so deep throughout this story. There are obstacles and I love how not-so-perfect it all was. It’s filled with complex characters and real-life issues. It was actually kind of tough to get through emotionally because Darius goes through so much. There is a lot to be said about mental health (specifically depression) and Darius is there to remind us that although life gets you down, there is always room to go up.
Darius the Great is Not Okay tells you it’s okay not to be okay. It had me in tears by the end and it is filled with so much hope. I think that Star Trek fans will definitely appreciate this book a lot. All of the references went right over my head because I’ve never actually seen it (whoops). If I had to compare this book to anything else I would say it’s The Kite Runner meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Five Things Darius Kellner Can’t Live Without
#5: Chelo kabob. Chelo kabob (or kabob with rice) is the finest and most famous of Persian foods, and it’s Darius’s favorite dish. Meat fresh from the skewer, charred vegetables, and jewels of basmati rice scented with saffron. What could be better?
#4: His bicycle. Darius uses his bike to get to school and to work. It’s independence and freedom and fun all wrapped up into one. He can go where he wants, when he wants, and do what he wants.
#3: Tea. From the sound of a boiling kettle to the scent of the leaves, the ritual of tea means home and contentment to Darius. Tea is a singular product, grown in particular soil, processed in a particular way, that delivers a particular experience to the palate. Whether it’s a subtle Ti Kwan Yin or a bold Assam, whether it’s a traditional Matcha or an elegant Bai Hao, tea in all its forms fascinates Darius.
#2: Star Trek. Since he was a child, Star Trek meant connection with his dad. Every night, they watch an episode together, and for forty-seven minutes they get to be the picture-perfect father and son. Star Trek taught Darius about bravery, about honesty, about morality, and about family. It taught him to explore the world around him and to appreciate the differences he finds.
#1: His family. Even when Darius gets mad at his little sister Laleh, or flustered with his mom and her big Iranian family, or frustrated with his father and how they can never seem to communicate, he still loves them. He still needs them to feel like himself.
Thanks for reading! Make sure you’re following the blog tour stops for all things Darius the Great is Not Okay and don’t forget it’s releasing August 28th. The next stop is over at Emily Kate Reads tomorrow!