Review of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Darius the Great Is Not Okay
by Adib Khorram
High School    Dial    313 pp.    g
8/18    978-0-5255-5296-3    $17.99 

Sophomore Darius Kellner doesn’t fit in at his Oregon high school, where he’s bullied by Trent Bolger and his “Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy.” But Darius also doesn’t fit comfortably in his own life due to clinical depression, confusion about his half-Persian heritage, and constant awareness of his white “Übermensch” father’s disappointment in him. Darius has only met his mother’s family over Skype, but when the news comes that his grandfather is dying, the family embarks on an extended trip to Iran. Here the book ripens into an exploration of understanding one’s identity — both personally and culturally. When Darius meets his grandparents’ neighbor Sohrab, a Bahá’í young man, in Yazd, a tender and natural friendship begins. Unlike the “Level Seven Awkward Silences” he shares with his stern father, the teen feels comfortable and safe with this virtual stranger: “I could be silent with Sohrab. That’s how I knew we were going to be friends.” Khorram’s debut novel is an affectionate portrait of Iran: the food and aromas, the rich traditions and eclectic culture; the somewhat choppy first-person narrative also explains Farsi phrases and their complex etymology. As Darius’s palpable discomfort begins to give way, readers will understand that home can be more than the physical place you live, and that people who make you feel at home can come into your life unexpectedly.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. 

Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is former managing editor and projects editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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