Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Adib Khorram

Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut follows Darius Kellner on his first trip to Iran to visit relatives, a trip that will change his life.

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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.


Advance Galley Reviews

Darius Kellner is an overweight young man who seems to not be able to do anything right in the eyes of his Father. He is relentlessly bullied. His Mother’s family is in Iran and her Dad’s health is failing so they are going to Iran and it will be the first time meeting his family there. I really had a hard time getting into this. While I get the problems that Darius suffered through, basically being the bane of his Father’s existence, it just wasn’t my type of book. It has great reviews so I would definitely read another book by this author. This one just felt boring to me.

This book was so much better than I thought it would be. It's a surprisingly well done debut novel by Adib Khorram. It's one of those books that I think that everyone needs to read. I definitely blew through reading this and managed to finish it in just a few hours. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone. 5/5 star read.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Penguin's First to Read program. This book has content warnings for racism/xenophobia, homophobia, fat-shaming, depression/depression-related ableism, bullying, terminal illness in a family member, and strained family relationships. This is one of those books that, after reading it, you want absolutely everyone to read it. Darius is such an intriguing main character, and Khorram managed to balance how Darius doesn't feel like he fits in with either side of his family in a very delicate manner. Darius feels disconnected from his Persian heritage because he wasn't taught to speak the language from birth like his younger sister was and because the culture doesn't really "approve" of his medication for depression, and he also feels disconnected from his white father who doesn't seem to approve of Darius's life, constantly policing him for being fat and for choices he makes in his life. The feeling of being a teenager, especially a fat teenager of color, who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere was very well-done, and I really empathized with Darius. As someone with depression, I also really loved the depression rep and the discussions around mental health in this book. Many people who don't have depression don't understand that it's not a matter of "just being happy" and getting shamed for trying to treat it can be incredibly overwhelming. This part of the book in particular was one that I felt very deeply; it almost felt like a weight was dragging my shoulders down as I continued to read because this kind of talk is SO common and so harmful for someone who is just trying to seek help. The romance in this book was very light and sweet, and I'm actually rather glad that it kind of took a backseat to the other themes in the book because this book covered so much ground and I think was stronger for having the romance be a little less prominent. This is a story about a gay boy, yes, but it's a story about that gay boy's Persian heritage and his family and how he's viewed as a fat person, and I'm really glad that those things took the stage in this one. I absolutely adored this book. If you haven't picked it up yet, you really should. Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't know what I was expecting when I requested for Darius the Great is Not Okay. The blurb looked interesting and I was looking for something light to read, so uncontrollable me hit the request button. Little did I know that I will be handed one of the best books I'll read this year. There's just so much to love in this debut - an awkward, relatable main character who will endear himself to readers, a healthy friendship, an honest portrayal of depression, and the sounds, smells and taste of Iran. I just gobbled everything up! This one relies heavily on its main character, Darius, an awkward, nerdy teen who struggles with depression. Darius does not fit anywhere, not in school where he is a prime target for bullies like Fatty Bolger; not even in his own home where, no matter what he does, his father seems to disappointed of him. So, when his parents take him and his sister to Iran to visit his ailing father for the first and probably the last time, he's even more out of his element.  It was so precious reading Darius' growth. He starts out with pretty much a very negative perception of almost everything. He doesn't really have any friends at school, except for the Persian girl who he occasionally have lunch with. He also doesn't have a close relationship with his father, often referring to him as an "übermensch." But, in Iran, he slowly opens up and instantly connects with Sohrab, his grandparents' young neighbor and the son of his mother's childhood best friend.  Sohrab becomes Darius' first real friend and their friendship, I think, is something that both boys needed. Like Darius, Sohrab also doesn't fit in. He is Baha'i, and this makes him a prime target for the other boys in his neighborhood. Through Sohrab, Darius discovers how it feels like to be included, to have someone to talk to and someone who'll give him that much needed silence when he needed it, and he learns to trust himself in the process enough to start opening up. himself to the other people in his life.  As much as I love that though, what got me is the realistic and very truthful portrayal of depression in this book. Since the story follows Darius very closely, some parts may be clouded by his persistent self-loathing and overreactivity. The talk Darius and his dad had nearing the end of the book tugged at my heartstrings and made me spill a few tears. It was just so sincere and honest, and practically one of the best scenes in the whole book. Darius' sexuality isn't discussed much, only hinted at, and I was actually pretty okay with that, the same way that having no romance was just fine. I think the story's main point was to have Darius open himself up, and Adib Khorram accomplishes it successfully. Darius the Great is Not Okay is an amazing coming-of-age story with a main character who'll endear himself to readers. This one comes with high recommendations from me.  (This review is also posted on my blog: https://inbetweenbookpages.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/review-darius-the-great-is-not-okay-by-adib-khorram)

Darius is the child of an Iranian immigrant mother and an American father. He feels inadequately like either parent--he wasn't taught his mother's culture and language, and he doesn't resemble his father in looks or interests. His younger sister is the favored child, fluent in Farsi, and earns their father's approval through her sociability, too. Some of these thoughts might be Darius' depression talking. He takes medication for it, but it doesn't seem to entirely help. And when the family travels to visit his mother's parents, he's even more out of place, even after he meets Sohrab, who he quickly grows close to--his first real friend. And it's on this trip he must face his family, his past, his depression... so many problems he struggles with, and see if he can find a place where not okay is enough for now, and might become okay soon. It's a tear-jerker of a read, inhabiting the head on an awkward loner full of self-doubt. His dialogue and inner thoughts are perhaps too real, and do get repetitive. But getting stuck in is something that happens, when thoughts won't leave a person alone. Anyone who's ever dealt with depression, or knows someone with it, will probably see a mirror in this story. The world is weird and troubling at times, and yet, we carry on.

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.

Summary: Darius The Great is not okay. He has depression, and he gets picked on at school. He has trouble connecting with his father, always feeling like a disappointment not only to his father but everyone. Half American, half Persian he feels like he can’t sit comfortably within either label. Terribly awkward and a little too in love with Lord of the Rings, it isn’t easy to make friends and form connections. When they find that his grandfather is sick, the family takes off to Iran. Enveloped into the culture that makes up the other half of him is a bit overwhelming. He doesn’t know Farsi, as we have established…. but it runs deeper. He doesn’t understand the social cues. His sister, nearly fluent in Farsi, is doing great and their grandparents love spending time with her…. but how does he create his own space in their life? How are family members also complete strangers, and how does he learn to open up to them? Sohrab, the boy next door to his grandparents, changes everything. He is kind, confident and well adjusted. He makes sure to include Darius, and makes sure that others do as well. For once, he isn’t a disappointment and he doesn’t need to change or hide. And it feels amazing! Having a good friend to talk to, lean on, play with and care for has allowed Darius to open up, to move forward and to accept the good in himself even with the issues. When it’s time to go home, though, and let go of the Football playing Persian Darioush, will he be able to keep a bit of that at home? Sohrab had told him once that there was a saying- “you’re place was empty”. Had Darius found his place beside Sohrab and his grandparents? Could he find one in America? My thoughts: I feel like I am kind of all over the place here. I loved the book, even if the last two chapters made me cry in public (do not read those chapters while eating in the mall food court…. trust me). I loved Darius with his awkwardness and odd references. The fact that he named things- like the water boiler at work and his grandfather’s car- made me smile. It reminded me that, depression aside, he’s a basic teen. I am not a fan of Lord of the Rings, and thus didn’t get all the references…. but I got enough for it to be charmingly geeky. The issue with this character is that he lives so much in his own mind, letting his perception of things along with his insecurities take over his life. I saw a lot of myself there. As a teen I struggled with depression, and I felt like a failure a lot of the time. I would try to hide it… but I felt like I would never fit in. That part of Darius spoke to me. The other characters were well developed. I kind of loved Sohrab. He was a good friend to Darius and allowed him to be himself. He also made mistakes, though…. colossal ones. I liked how he tried to make things right and owned his mistakes. This character allowed for Darius to take down walls and try for things. While I did wonder a few times if there was a bit of a romance there; it never came to anything. At best it was one person feeling another, or someone being just too warm toward their first real friend. I do like how he spoke of his depression. Even though he was ashamed of it- or maybe because of this- it rang true for me. As far as the mental health issues, though, I think Stephen said it best. He had always seemed distant because he was upset about giving this to his son; and he didn’t know how to protect him from it or from how the world would see it. That hit me profoundly. This is an issue for a lot of parents with depression, and anxiety. In opening up to his son, he allowed me to see him differently. It was a great scene. for me, this is a four star book. On the adult content side, there’s a little bit. There’s some extensive verbal bullying and the like. A bit of language. Then there’s how others perceive Darius’ depression. While I feel that was needed for the book, it made it a bit…. much at times. I don’t know if I should place it in the realm of “adult content” but it may be upsetting for young teens. Let’s give this one a three. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

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!

I just finished reading Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. It’s the story of Darius who was born and grew up in Portland, Oregon to a blond American father and Persian mother. He’s a geek and knows more of Lord of the Rings than Darius the Great, who he’s named for. He’s the outsider who doesn’t fit in, even in his own family. His little sister speaks Farsi and Skypes with family in Iran. Darius feels he’s a disappointment. Most of the book is Darius’ trip to Iran. His dying grandfather wants to meet his American grandchildren, whom he’s only conversed with via Skype. There are all the usual aspects of a YA novel. The discovering yourself, the learning that the world is greater than themselves. I loved watching Darius make his first real friend. However, there were other things I learned while reading Darius the Great is Not Okay. I learned that many Farsi words from French. Merci still means thank you. I learned familial titles go both ways. Babou is grandfather and grandson. It may be granddaughter too, which would be awesome to remove an unnecessarily gendered term, but it’s Darius’ story, and the language flows naturally from her perspective. I learned falafels aren’t Persian. I’m not sure I thought they were, but I’ve never wondered of their origins. I learned Iran is just as varied with both religious and economic diversity, like most countries. I learned that selective ignorance and bigotry is everywhere in all cultures. OK, I didn’t just learn that, but I loved the different levels of acceptance Darius’ family had to non-Persians. I learned Iran’s history is deeper, more complex, and more proud than I could have imagined. I learned (this one is more inferred) that being gay in Iran isn’t bad. This has come more from Darius and his friend Sohrab’s friendship. Their relationship isn’t romantic, but the physical and verbal affection is more than most men have. It feels like flirting, and Darius’ father hints towards it. But Darius doesn’t acknowledge it, and I like that. It feels more normal. Finally, I learned more about Star Trek, but not enough to make me want to watch it. I’m much more Laleh than Darius with that.

I hate to compare books like this, because one or the other typically falls short, but, If you loved Ari&Dante than this needs to be on your tbr sooner than later. I swear Darius is the second coming of what readers loved in the latter. It gets in that close knit friendship, the workings of depression and angst, and the budding realization of sexuality. Plus, it’s refreshingly funny. From the first chapter, I knew I had something great. Half way in, I knew this book was going to be my favorite read for 2018. The writing is quirky. It has that debut author feel at times and you have to forgive a bit of the oddities. But the characters here really do take center stage. And the feelings that this book produces time and time again kept sucker punching me right in the freaking face. In some instances, I had legit tears welling up in my eyes for this kid. I just fell for him SO hard. This lovable Star Trek dork who makes the perfect references every other page. (And does so in a way that you can be 0% knowledgeable in the show but still get the humor.) Like, SOMEONE PROTECT THIS BOY. LIFE IS UNFAIR AND HE DESERVES NONE OF THIS. The rep here is remarkable, not only for the dealings with medicated depression but also for the Persian culture. Darius goes to great lengths to narrate in farsi, and further explain to the reader what each word means. I love that. And to be real here, I read the synopsis and kept looking the other way. A sick family member? Family reuniting? Finding yourself? Hm, yeah I’m a bit done with those ya contemporary cliches. So imagine my surprise? I’m laughing out loud in the first chapter. And it just keeps getting better and better through all the highs and the lows of Darius’s day to day life and travels. The relationships that exists in this are tangible and real. And basically, I just need a second book. I need to know if Darius and Sohrab get any closer. AND I need to know what’s happening with Chip. I need more and you will too. It’s not even worth it to point out the little baby cons I had with this, because in the scope of things, this book was just made to be treasured.

I was thrilled to see a YA book about both an Iranian-American teenager and a trip to Iran. Both of these topics were new for me as a reader so I feel like I was able to learn a lot while also enjoying the story. Darius was also a breath of fresh air as a YA protagonist. His depression was discussed frankly, but it didn’t make up his whole character. The difference between being “down” and depressed was handled wonderfully, as was the idea that someone who “has nothing to be sad about” can have depression. I also liked that male body image was such an important theme, as that seems to be lacking in YA stories. The plot started a bit too slowly, with a lot of information dumped at the reader at the beginning. However, once I was invested in Darius (and especially his friendship with Sohrab) it seemed to move faster. I did feel like his relationship with Sohrab was moving in a romantic direction that never materialized, but their friendship was beautiful as written. I love books that can make me laugh out loud on one page and tear up a few pages later, and this absolutely did. I would love to listen to an audiobook version of the story as well, because I found myself occasionally taken out of the story trying to figure out pronunciations. Thank you to Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

A new perspective for me it was a great way to see inside another culture. I love reading books for this very reason. This book was hard hitting emotionally and I loved it

3 things about this book: 1. It’ a nice way to get to know a new culture a little bit better. 2. The thoughts of Darius felt real teenager thoughts and, at the same time, his own thoughts. However the book has some phrasing that sounded a little strange to me. 3. The relationship between Darius and his father made me cry. Real tears. And I’ve never cried over a book before. It was painful but so beautiful... I never expected to like this book this much. But I did ??

Darius the Great is Not Okay will hook you from the first page- Not for it’s suspense, not for its romance, not for it’s conflict, but for it’s undeniable endearment and relatable nature. Darius is a high school student battling depression and acceptance. He’s not quite thin enough, not quite athletic enough, and with a white father and a Persian mother- not quite Persian enough. He has accepted his fate of being “meh”, though he dreams of life being different. When his family needs to take a trip to Iran to visit an ailing family member, Darius begins to find out who he is and what he has to offer life. Touching on all of the relevant issues young teens face today- peer acceptance, self acceptance, parental acceptance- Darius is the ultimate underdog that everyone roots for. Contrary to the title, readers will be saying “Darius the Great IS okay” by the end of the novel. There are not enough good things to say about the fabulous book. Darius the Great is one of those books that will stick with you for a long time. Not only does the book appeal to young boys and girls alike, but the seamless integration of Persian culture leaves readers walking away more personally and culturally knowledgeable. The character development and language Khorram uses leads readers to feel perfectly connected to Darius and his family. The internal battles Darius faces between his depression, jealousy towards his younger sister, and desire for acceptance from his father are so natural that every teen will relate on some level. This is a book that is culturally and emotionally diverse, and one that I will recommend to any Young Adult reading lover.

This is a great coming-of-age story that tackles mental illness, racism and fitting in. I feel like this should be a mandatory read for all teenagers.

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.

4 STARS!! Darius is a sci-fi geek, a tea snob, and an outcast. Adib Khorram’s young adult debut was a lovely look at teen boy interacting with a culture that I have never investigated before. This book takes us as a carry-on during Darius Kellner’s first trip to Iran to come face to face with his Persian relatives on his mother’s side. Before leaving Portland, Darius had only ever met his grandparents via Skype, now he is confronted by an overly loving grandmother and a dying grandfather who both want to teach him about being a “true” Persian. He’s never really known friendship either, until he meets his grandparent’s neighbor Sohrab. I loved the details in this book. I learned about tea, Nowruz, and taarof (as much a custom in the US South as it is in Iran!) This book really hit all the major notes of feeling left out that every teen feels at some point, but did it from such a different angle than the usual YA novel. I loved that our narrator was a boy...of a heritage other than nondescript white guy...living with depression...with hobbies (tea, sci-fi and soccer). Personally, I loved that Darius’s preferred fandom was Star Trek: The Next Generation, since TNG was MY favorite (Star Wars just barely second) as a junior high kid—waaaaay before being a sci-fi nerd suddenly became cool. Author Khorram’s writing lets Darius’s feelings bleed off the page and right into your heart. I especially enjoyed Darius’s interactions and conflicting feelings about his sister Laleh. All too often YA tends to portray siblings as either best friends or complete enemies, but Khorram realistically displays the push and pull emotions of a standard sibling relationship. The novel somehow feels unfinished for me, both because it didn’t reach the climax I expected with Babou’s health and because I want to follow Darius longer. So, here’s hoping that Khorram is working on a sequel where, maybe, Darius IS okay.

4/5 stars I was extremely excited when I got chosen to review Darius The Great Is Not Okay. It's one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and overall it was a delight to read! MC's, especially teenagers, that are from a middle-eastern descent unfortunately aren't always present in the YA genre. But I am so glad that this book, along with a lot of others coming soon, is trying to improve the representation of middle-eastern MC's in a positive light. It is also very rare to find a YA book featuring a middle-eastern MC who struggles not only with mental health issues but finding his own identity. Being a fractional Persian myself, I really appreciated all of the little tidbits about food, Farsi, and just the overall cultural representation throughout the book that I don't normally get to experience in books. It just really made my little heart super happy! I thought that Adib Khorram did a great job in handling two topics that are usually hardly ever addressed in the Persian culture: depression and LGBTQ+ rep. Although the latter wasn't really at the forefront of the story, it was hinted at throughout the book. I liked how that allowed Darius to take a step back and learn how to handle one thing at a time, showing his growth throughout the story in coming into himself and learning about his true self. He was learning how to deal with his depression, which was the main obstacle he was trying to get through, and him being able to learn that it truly was okay to be not okay sometimes allowed him to delve deeper into his own person. The evolution of his relationship with his father was truly so beautiful and heartwarming that it made me just want to reach in and give them both a big hug. I absolutely loved Darius's friendship with Sohrab and how two misfits in their own eyes got to lean on each other and lift each other up. It was such a wholesome and heartwarming relationship that I think everyone should have/experience in their lifetimes. Sometimes the most important people in your life come at the most unexpected of times and places. I was a little disappointed with how abruptly the whole story ended, but I am really hoping for a sequel with more Darius and Sohrab!! I will say that some minor issues I had with the book were not actually about the story itself, but just the formatting of the writing at times. I liked how there were Stark Trek references throughout the book because it allowed the reader to take a peek into Darius's brain and see how he tries to make an uncomfortable situation more manageable by bringing up something that makes him happy. However, if the references were not as excessive throughout the book I think it would have made more sense and more relatable to people who may not understand every reference. It makes me so happy that this book will soon be out in the world for others to relate to and also possibly empathize with and to widen the horizon of representation in the YA community!

I think the overall story is a good one. It's a good look at depression and how it can affect family on different levels. It also did a really good job of looking at things from different perspectives and really bringing to light aspects of different cultures. The one part of the book I found frustrating and distracting was the way the main character spoke. Almost every single conversation with him just had "um" or "uh" in it and that was it. There are so many other ways you can articulate hesitation or confusion in regards to conversations and this felt lazy and tedious to me.

A beautiful story so subtle and wonderfully written. From the food to the landscapes to the cultural identity struggles. Iran came alive before my eyes.  Darius is an endearing character. He is a half-Persian teenage boy trying to figure out who he is. On the family trip to Iran, he gains a little more insight into himself with the help of his new friend, Sohrab.  My one little complaint would be Darius' dialogue. A lot of "um". A lot. At least 85% of his sentences begin with "um". I get what the author was trying to express, but it just became so repetitive.  Anyway, this is a lovely story!  4/5 stars

I might have let out a little yelp when I got the email from First to Read that I’d been chosen for an ARC of Darius the Great is Not Okay. I’d been looking forward to reading it for a while and I never really know what’s going to happen when I try to get books from them. It was also on Becky Albertalli’s list of LGBTQ recommendations, so there’s another ringing endorsement. I was all set to love it, and I did… mostly. I loved the friendship between Darius and Sohrab. Darius is a lot of things. He’s awkward, he’s nerdy, and he’s self-conscious. He’s overweight, he struggles with depression, and he gets bullied a lot. He doesn’t really have any friends except for the one Persian girl in his school that he sometimes has lunch with. But when he gets to Iran, he instantly bonds with Sohrab. Sohrab is a guy who doesn’t really fit in, either. He’s different from the other kids in his town, but he knows from the minute that he meets Darius that they’ll be best friends. Their friendship is so sweet. The actual LGBTQ aspect is very subtle. I don’t recall Darius ever actually addressing his sexuality. There are times when a family member will ask him why he doesn’t have a girlfriend and he’ll kind of dodge the question. There are little hints that Darius feels more than friendly toward Sohrab, and maybe Sohrab feels the same toward him, but this isn’t a romance. (And that’s totally fine.) Now, for what kept the book from a full five stars. There were two things that kind of ate away at me while I was reading. First, the book relies pretty heavily on Star Trek references to move along the plot. This isn’t necessarily a problem for me in general. I’ve never been a huge fan of Star Trek, but I usually love pop culture references in books. It just felt a little over-the-top here. And second, there were so many similes. Everything had to be compared to something else. My protected PDF wouldn’t let me make highlights, so I’m just going based off my memory here, but I recall Darius referring to his voice as “squeaky like a cheese curd,” and that was just really interesting. All in all, though, those are two really minor complaints about a book that was otherwise really well-written. In the end, I’d say that Darius the Great is Not Okay is a really great character-driven debut that I’d easily recommend to just about anyone. There’s one point, near the end of the book, where I almost burst into tears in the middle of a crowded airplane. I felt so bad for Darius and just wanted to give him a big hug.

This is a tough book to review because there were so many things I loved about this book but a couple things that irritated me to no end.  Let's start with the positives.  I loved learning about the Persian culture when Darius goes to Iran.  All the food and tea mentioned made my mouth water and the customs and family get togethers the author described had a nice homey feel.  Darius' little sister, Lelah, was my absolutely favorite character.  She was sassy and funny and just plain adorable.  Darius and Lelah's relationship was another of my favorite things about the book.  He looked after her and genuinely wanted to spend time with her.    Ok, now the negatives.  The author had Darius say "Uh" or "Um" at least every few pages.  It was so annoying! I don't understand the purpose of these words so often.  It really distracted from the dialogue.   Lastly, Darius constantly repeating certain phrases and complaints that he was a disappointment to his dad was equally annoying.  I understand part of the plot of the book was for Darius to find himself and feel accepted but the repeated and numerous  mentions of Darius feeling like his dad doesn't love him was ridiculous.  With all that said, I do feel this book is worth reading.  Darius, being biracial, has a lot to deal with at school and home and he doesn't know where he fits in. The book emphasizes the importance of friends and family and how they love us no matter what.  A great message for all ages.

This was a really sweet story. When I think about, it brings a smile to my face even though there were some really sad moments in it. The reason I rated it 3.5 stars, even though I really enjoyed it, was because this read very much like a debut novel. It held a lot of promise, and it delivered on a lot of aspects, but there were some things that were lackluster. Full book review at my blog: https://onwardandupwardreviews.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/darius-the-great-is-not-okay-book-review/

I received free access to an advance galley through the Penguin First to Read program. I have to step out of myself a bit to review this one, but not as far as I expected. If you know me at all, you know that I don’t read a lot of YA. That said, I think that YA fills an important literary niche, and I was thrilled to gain access to this particular ARC. Darius Kellner doesn’t fit. He’s too Persian for America, and too American for Iran. Unlike his younger sister (who he’s pretty sure is his replacement, but he loves her anyway), he never got the hang of Farsi. At school, he’s a walking target for bullies--despite the (clearly ineffective) Zero Tolerance Policy. The backdrop to this is that Darius is clinically depressed. What advice his “Teutonic Übermensch” of a dad has to offer is often more hurtful than helpful (despite his own struggles with depression). When his maternal grandfather is found to be terminally ill, Darius’ parents pack up the family to Iran so that they can all see him before he dies. Darius has never been to Iran, and in many ways he’s just as out of place among “True Persians” as he is at home. But while in Yazd, he makes friends with his Bahá'í neighbor, Sohrab. Through their friendship and the duration of the visit, he is forced to confront all of his fears about both himself and his place in his family. Depression rep in fiction is hard to get right. Nudging audiences who may not have experience with depression into becoming invested in such a character is not easy, to say the least, but Khorram has done an outstanding job. Darius is a geeky, tea-loving teenage boy with clinical depression, dealing with all the condemnations that such a demographic must endure. “What happened to you to make you so sad, huh?” “Maybe if you were more normal, people wouldn’t pick on you.” “Stop being selfish.” There’s also attention given to the more overlooked aspects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and the difficulty of finding the right dosage and prescription for a given person, as well as the fact that the meds don’t fix everything. Darius struggles with all of this, fighting to find color in a world that is emotionally grayscale. This book is not about Darius magically becoming happy through the power of love and friendship. Depression doesn’t work like that. It is, however, a book about coming to terms with the idea that it is okay to not be okay, and pushing to be the best you can within your limitations. It does get better. Good things can happen to you. Happiness is a thing you can pursue. Also in this book, Khorram explores what it is to be a child of a first-generation immigrant, caught between cultures. Darius’ mother wanted her first child to be as American as possible, but in so doing inadvertently cut him off from his heritage. This is amplified by the more moderate approach taken to the second child’s integration. It’s not all good. The language and humor is a bit repetitive, and some of the geek references are just nonsensical. The most egregious example was “Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy,” which is a great descriptor for inflexible supporters of the establishment, but not so much for high school bullies. Had it been used only a couple of times, I could have shrugged it off. As it stands, the proof copy I was given seemed to use the phrase every five pages or so. Less objectively, Darius Kellner is a teenage boy, surrounded by teenage boys, with all the commentary that implies. Some of it is just eyeroll-worthy locker-room talk, but there was one paragraph I had to read three times before it clicked that it was a reference to… certain morning inconveniences. (Could have gone my whole life without that realization, thanks.) Overall, though, this was a good read. The last page in the book is a collection of resources that I’ve copied below. The list I have is U.S.-specific, so I don’t know if it will be different in the U.K. edition (or any subsequent international publications.) Personal rating: 3 / 5 ...but because I’m a YA cynic, and because this is an advance copy, and because (despite its flaws) this is one of the best representations of depression I’ve seen in fiction, I’m going to add another star. U.S. Resources (from the back of the book) ? National Alliance on Mental Illness: nami.org ? Anxiety and Depression Association of America: adaa.org ? Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: dbsalliance.org ? Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 ? National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1.800.273.8255 ? The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Lifeline): 1.866.488.7386 ? Trans Lifeline: 1.877.565.8860

A very good book about cultures, racism and a coming of age. Darius feels like he does not fit in USA with his white father, who tends to be very hard on him. So a trip to Iran will show him what kind of man he is and teach him about life.

This is a powerful coming-of-age story that deals with things from mental health to racism and identity as a poc. Darius was a compelling character who has more to offer than he thinks, as is evidenced even in the amount you learn about Iran through him. I definitely spent the last several chapters crying. This story is so beautiful and intimate, I can see it going down as a classic that kids will read for generations to come.

Darius is a lot of things, but okay is not one of them. Being a chubby, depressed, half-Persian kid who has to put up with a lot of bullies makes that hard, especially when the one person it seems should most understand you (your also depressed dad) is harder on you than anyone else. But when Darius and his family decide to make a last-minute trip to Iran to spend some time with his dying grandfather, Darius finally gets the chance to discover his roots, get to know the family he's always seen through a computer screen, make his first real friend, and maybe, just maybe, begin to mend the relationship with his father. Life is never easy, especially for a teenager who feels like he'll never be Persian enough for his Iranian family or American enough for the kids back at school, but for the first time in his life, Darius learns that it might be enough to just be Darius. And that it's okay to not be okay. I really loved this book. Khorram paints a really vivid picture of Darius's life as an outsider who doesn't necessarily want to fit in, but just wants to find his space in the world. His struggles with depression and the complicated relationship with his father are so beautifully handled. It's really wonderful to see a YA novel digging into the intricacies of a complicated father-son relationship that shows the flaws and hurts of each without demonizing them for it. And any YA novel that paints an accurate and sympathetic look into living with mental illness gets a big thumbs up from me. Other things I loved about this novel: the exploration of Persian culture and what it means to be a child of two cultures who doesn't always feel like he belongs to either; Darius's friendship with Sohrab with all it's rockiness and realness; the brother-sister relationship between Darius and the much younger Laleh; Darius's unabashed Star Trek obsession that trickles into the way he tells his story. It's a truly lovely read. I'd definitely recommend it for fans of Sara Farizan and Adam Silvera.

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.

This was a fantastic book. It touches on a number of big issues—friendship, family, bullying, depression, fitting in, and finding yourself. There’s just a little hint, a bit of subtext, of a young man beginning to explore his sexual orientation as well. I love how Darius and Sohrab’s friendship is developed. I especially loved the depression rep—and how that influenced and impacted the way Darius and his father interacted. The ways in which all the characters interact and grow is just lovely. I also really enjoyed the general nerdiness of the book. Stylistically, this is a little different than a lot of books I’ve read. I saw another reviewer describe it as “very fourth wall breaking” which I think is accurate. I felt it worked very well for the story and the characters. I loved the tone overall—I could hear the teenage boy coming through, and Darius had a very strong, unique voice. Highly recommended.

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!

This book is about Darius, a teen facing many typical teen issues, with the added struggle of depression and being one of only 2 Persian students at his high school. He doesn't feel American enough in America, yet when his parents decide to take him to Iran to visit family, he doesn't feel Persian enough. While in Iran he gets to know his relatives, makes a new friend, and learns to feel comfortable with who he is. This is a great YA book for any teen. Many will relate to Darius and many can learn something from stepping in his shoes for a bit. It is a sweet story.

I also read this in one sitting. I think it was so easy to relate to because it is a very family oriented story even though Darius is the main character. All the relationships were well expressed and deeply poignant. I cried but I also laughed and it left me with a good, hopeful feeling for Darius and his family. The subjects of depression and exploration of sexual orientation were managed well and with sensitivity. It was also good to put the contact info for pertinent organizations and hotlines on the last page.

This has definitely been one of the best books I've read. I loved the way it describes Darius being a Persian-American teenager who's dealing with depression, bullying, and, at the same time, trying to satisfy his father. Suddenly, he has to travel to Iran along with his parents and little sister to visit his mother's family. While in Iran, he struggles to be Persian enough to please his family, when he felt as if he weren't good enough to make his father proud. But Iran had many surprises for Darius... he found out who he really was: a Persian-American teenager with a loving and caring family who'll support him no matter what. Also, he met the best person he could ever imagine to be friends with. So, any teenager who's part Latino, Muslim, Korean, etc., who's dealing with depression, who doesn't feel good enough for their families or even themselves... THIS is the right book for you to read, I'm sure you'll relate to Darius.

I was excited to read a YA book about a teenager and his Iranian culture . However, I grew tired of all the cutesy lingo the protagonist used, the crude language of the bullies, and the obvious and tired trope of a teenager feeling uncomfortable in his skin and being bullied. I didn't finish the book - I have read many better books (YA and other genres) that better explore the concept of being caught between two cultures and provide more depth.

Darius is an awkward teenager (weren’t we all, though?), chubby, insecure, emotional and struggling to find himself while dealing with depression. While the struggle for self-identity is something that we all went through as teenagers, Darius is half-Persian...and that means he gets caught in between, not Persian nor American enough for his peers. I The author does a great job conveying what it feels to be a teenager; the daddy-issues, self-pity, emotional roller coaster... plus, the book reminded me of the comedy of Maz Jobrani. I didn’t get the Hobbit (never read it) nor Star Trek references but I still found it very enjoyable. I even shed a tear at the end.

It's so hard to read this book without having my feeling carried away. I felt like Darius is taking me with him on his trip to Iran. Khorram's simple yet clever writing made me laughing and crying and smiling and grinning along with him. It's in its simplicity that Khorram found the way into our hearts. I will always remember reading this beautiful book!

I absolutely loved this one. It felt really special and I couldn’t put it down. Maybe it’s because I struggle with some of the same issues as Darius does but I connected with him and just wanted him to be happy. It’s thoughtful and heartbreaking and happy all at the same time. I hope that there’s more to Darius and his family’s story and I look for and to whatever the author decides to follow up with.

Sometimes you need to travel halfway around the world and connect to your heritage to start to realize and accept that it's okay to just be you, as Darius does in Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.  Darius Kellner is a half-Persian teen with a working knowledge of Farsi so far as it relates to the important topics of tea and food, but has never been to Iran to visit his mother's family - they've Skyped, but meeting them and getting to know them in person is entirely different. When the Kellner family travels to Yazd to visit with his ailing grandfather, Darius is overcome with emotional input to process on top of his dad's general disappointment in him and his clinical depression. While spending time with his grandparent's neighbor Sohrab, Darius appreciates his openness and ability to be himself and realizes that not only has he made an incredible, true friend but that he can unashamedly be himself, too.  A quick and relatable read about family, identity, and trying to find how you fit in to the world, this story fittingly addresses learning about your cultural heritage and embracing yourself as you are. Filled with plenty of references to Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, the world as Darius sees and experiences it is easy to connect to through those terms and filters he applies from those works (especially for those inclined toward the geeky). Though all the characters are well-developed and vividly depicted, I was frustrated by Darius and his constant need for external catalysts to bring about any dynamic shift in his thinking or behavior. From the context of conversations and exchanges that Darius and Sohrab had, I was hoping that Darius's sexuality would have been more fully addressed instead of merely hinted at and skimmed over - this would have added some additional heft to make the narrative even more powerful and relevant. Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

I read this book in one sitting. It's thoughtful, heartfelt, and it gives a voice to an often ignored and misunderstood segment of the population. Darius is sweet and lost and I definitely connected with him despite the fact that we have nothing in common. His troubles and worries are universal; from not knowing who you are when you're different from those around you, to feeling like a stranger when surrounded by family, to slowly finding your place in the world, there are just so many wonderful (sad and ecstatic) things to find. You get to experience everything as intensely as Darius. All the while, getting a peak at a culture that is beautifully unique and often misunderstood. This is a book that should be shared and enjoyed by people of all ages, not just young adults. I highly recommend it.

 


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