You may remember one of these pictures from The Reading Rush instagram challenge I did. I found this for 50% off at my local bookstore and I just had to pick it up.
Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran.
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 understands 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.
You can tell the author put so much thought into this story. There was a lot of repetition and reference throughout the novel, but he made sure not to leave you in the dark. I learned so much about Iranian and Persian culture while reading Darius the Great is Not Okay.
I was actually reading this during my first trip to Haiti so that helped me understand Darius and his situation even more. It can be difficult fitting into the customs of a family that you weren’t really raised around.
The novel tackles living with depression incredibly well. Darius mentions that both he and his father have clinical depression and take medication for it. The way he is judged for that fact, especially by his Iranian relatives was pretty accurate.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is well written and easy to follow.
The Not so Good
I was expecting a lot more LGBTQ+ representation but it was barely there. There were some suggestions about Darius being gay, but it wasn’t said outright.
The writing style threw me off at times. Something about it felt more like I was reading an essay by Darius about his travels instead of an actual novel.
All in All
Darius the Great is Not Okay is far more educational than entertaining. It reminded me of a PBS show.
Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about other cultures. It’s just that sometimes all the facts and explanations through me off from the actual story.
I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a Persian fact guide disguised as a YA novel.