Publisher: Dial Books
Published: August 28th 201
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
My Rating: 5 Stars
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.
When I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think about how this book read similarly to Aristotle and Dante. The books are different, but I think they have extremely similar tones and ways of storytelling. Darius and Sohrab have a different relationship than Ari and Dante, but I think both are stories of acceptance and self-discovery and I would definitely say if you liked one you’d enjoy the other.
I loved this book. It was beautiful in so many ways. Darius feels like an outsider in his life and doesn’t feel connected to his Persian heritage or to his American life. He doesn’t really have friends, he suffers from depression and feels like his little sister replaced him in some ways. Darius is a wholly relatable character and I think it would be easy for most people to find something in Darius’s story to relate to.
When Darius and his family travel to Iran to visit his grandparents for the first time, he feels a sense of belonging for the first time when he’s invited to play soccer with a young man who lives down the street from his grandparents, and Darius’s story moves from a young man who doesn’t know where his place is to someone figuring out that he gets to exist and enjoy things the way he wants to. Sohrab and Darius have that intense sort of friendship from basically the moment they meet, it’s beautiful when someone finds that person who just gets them. Whether it’s an intense friendship or perhaps could turn romantic in the recently announced sequel it’s a lovely thing.
This book talks about mental health bluntly and honestly. Darius talks about his experience and how others see him, especially his family in Iran. The whole topic is woven so well into the story that although this is a book about mental illness it doesn’t read like a book about mental illness.
Overall, I think this is one of those YA books that will stick around and be passed to new YA readers the same way that books like Aristotle and Dante or even Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (These books are not similar, but they have that culture penetrating existence, and I think Darius the Great Is Not Okay will have the same kind of life.
I highly suggest you read this one if you haven’t yet