Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Published by Listening Library on August 28, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Audio, Audiobook
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Darius Kellner doesnâ€™t make friends easily. He gave up on the Boy Scouts years agoâ€”to his fatherâ€™s lasting disappointmentâ€”and after being diagnosed with depression, he quit the neighborhood soccer club, too. As the only Persian boy at his Portland high school, heâ€™s an easy target for Trent Bolger and his Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy.
Then Darius goes to Iran for spring break (and despite what the Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy say, itâ€™s not to join ISIS). Heâ€™s visiting his motherâ€™s hometown, Yazd, to meet his familyâ€”and his ailing grandfatherâ€”for the first time. But Darius speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows the Silmarillion better than the Shahnameh. Even surrounded by Persians, he canâ€™t fit in.
Not until he meets Sohrab Rezaei, his grandparentsâ€™ BahÃ¡â€™Ã neighbor. Darius is drawn to the lonely boy who helps water his grandfatherâ€™s fig trees, and the two strike up a tentative friendship, filling their days with pick up soccer, trips to the Jameh Mosque, and walks through Dowlatabad Garden.
But things in Iran are far from perfect. Dariusâ€™s grandfatherâ€™s health is failing. His dad is more distant than ever. And when Sohrab faces family issues of his own, Darius is powerless to helpâ€”or to hold their hard-won friendship together.
But he still has to try.
My school is considering this book as an all-school summer read, and as an avid reader and English department chair, I agreed to check it out to see if it would be a good candidate. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. Darius is a great character, and the book’s setting in Yazd, Iran offers a counterpoint to other texts set in the country. Khorram depicts the country’s beauty and heritage, and Darius quickly falls in love with it.
I loved Darius’s interest in tea and geeky pursuits such asÂ The Lord of the Rings andÂ Star Trek. I especially approve of his fandom forÂ Star Trek: The Next Generation. That was my show, too. I also liked the way Khorram handled Darius’s navigation of questioning his sexuality and getting to know grandparents he has only ever seen on Skype.
I teared up when Darius and his father finally have the talk that has been brewing for most of the book. I definitely want to read the sequel, especially since the audiobook version of Darius the Great Deserves Better is also narrated by Michael Levi Harris, who did a superb job withÂ Darius the Great is Not Okay.