Darius the Great Is Not Okay
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Darius is a chubby 14-year-old Persian-American who loves tea and Star Trek and his little sister, but not so much being bullied, being a disappointment to everyone, and dealing with his depression. When his grandfather is diagnosed with a brain tumor Darius and his family travel to Iran to visit them and he gets to meet his extended Iranian/Persian family in person for the first time. It’s wonderful to get to know more about his family and their history/culture, but it’s also difficult for Darius because he doesn’t speak Persian and often feels left out. He does, however, make a new friend – his first best friend ever – and they spend time together playing soccer (non-American football), and talking. Darius has a lot of issues and is hesitant to speak up for himself/makes a lot of assumptions about what other people think of him/misinterprets people’s intentions. When he has honest conversations with people and everyone really talks and really listens, however, he finds the validation and love and respect that he’s seeking. This was really fascinating – the setting in Iran, especially, is detail-rich and paints an excellent picture of life there. Adib Khorram also explores depression (both Darius’ and his father’s) in a very accessible way that shows what it can be like for different people. Readers will celebrate Darius’ achievements at the end. – Reviewed by YA Librarian
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)
Darius is half-Persian but speaks Klingon rather than Farsi and knows more about Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit than about Iran. But he is going to Iran with his Mom, Dad, and sister to visit his Mom’s family whether he likes it or not. Darius does not feel like he fits in anywhere, and even in Iran he does not feel like it is the right place for him. He suffers from depression like his Dad and takes medication, and his Mom’s family does not understand, and he is a bit chubby due to the medication, so it makes fitting in even worse. But he meets a friend, Sohrab, and life seems to be looking better. They play soccer together, sit on the roof and talk about things, and eat good food from Iran. Darius starts to feel like he belongs and feels good about himself.
This book really hit home with some great topics about depression, identity, dealing with relatives, and finding a place to belong. It is amazing how finding that right person to be your friend will make you feel better about yourself. A great book to see another culture through the eyes of the people and to delve into a friendship that changes you. For middle and high school teens. (sequel is: “Darius the Great Deserves Better”) – Reviewed by YS Swimming Librarian