Book Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay

Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay

Author: Adib Khorram

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

My rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads synopsis:

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.

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My heart is bursting with both sadness and joy because of this book. It was so well-written, so heartbreaking, and yet so heartwarming at the same time. So many people have recommended this to me, so many people have said a lot of good things about it, and they were absolutely right. I can say that Darius the Great is Not Okay is now one of my top 2019 reads.

The writing

Loved the writing style of this book! At first, I thought it was a bit odd because I felt like the tone was of a middle grade book. But as I read on, I realized it fit just right, especially for a character like Darius.

It was light yet poetic and poignant. There were times that the writing style felt so simple yet the words of the author held so much meaning and depth. I really loved that. As a reader, it got me so hooked with the story and the characters and everything they’re going through. It was brilliant.

I would also like to point out that there are numerous descriptions and explanations of the Farsi language through out the book, and as someone who enjoyed our Descriptive Linguistics class I absolutely loved it! Not only did it get me invested with Darius’s strange relationship with the Farsi language, it also got me excited to learn more about the language itself. That was really nice, and it definitely made me enjoy the book more.

The characters

I adore Darius so much! He is this sweet, nerdy, and quirky, cinnamon roll that is insecure and uncertain about a lot of things. His characterization was written so well—from the estranged relationship with his dad, to his insecurities about his identity, to his struggle with his moods and his overall mental health, everything. It was just so real, so innocent, and so heartbreaking. As I read through his perspective, I feel like I really connected well with his character.

I liked Sohrab. He was what Darius needed, a true friend, and it was just so beautiful seeing their friendship bloom. I liked Stephen Kellner as well. I knew there was more to him and his character and I felt so satisfied at the end. I also liked other minor characters like Mamou, Laleh, and everyone from Darius’s family in Iran. They really helped complete him and his personality, and watching (or should I say reading hahah!) Darius achieve that character development, it was truly amazing.

The plot

The plot was not all too complicated, it was actually very easy to follow. And yet, the author managed to discuss different topics and themes, and he did it in such a heartbreaking and heartwarming way (I don’t know if that made sense, but guys, I swear, it was awesome! *cries*).  There were subplots about family, about friendship, about self-identity, about weight, and most importantly about depression and mental health.

I really love how the author talked about depression through the plot (and of course the characters as well). Depression was shown subtly throughout the book and then discussed so freely towards the end, I really really love that.

I also love the family issues involved in this book. In a way, I could relate to it, and seeing Darius overcome it was truly awesome.

Quotes from the book

The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.

“Suicide isn’t the only way you can lose someone to depression.”

“We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody.”

I’d finally managed to open up the well inside me.
I didn’t think I could block it again.

“Darioush, are you stuck?”
“Huh?”
“You said sometimes you get stuck. Thinking something sad.”
“Oh. It’s nothing.”
“Come on. I won’t let you be stuck anymore.”

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5 stars for this wonderful book! So so good. Have you guys read this already? If not, I implore you to do so! You will not regret it!

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