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Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Cover of Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Darius the Great Is Not Okay
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Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.Winner of the William C....
Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.Winner of the William C....
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  • Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.
    Winner of the William C. Morris Debut Award

    "Heartfelt, tender, and so utterly real. I'd live in this book forever if I could."
    —Becky Albertalli, award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
    Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian—half, his mom's side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

    Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city's 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.

    Adib Khorram's brilliant debut is for anyone who's ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book

    My grandmother loomed large on the monitor, her head tiny and her torso enormous.

    I only ever saw my grandparents from an up-the-nose perspective.

    She was talking to Laleh in rapid-fire Farsi, something about school, I thought, because Laleh kept switching from Farsi to English for words like cafeteria and Heads-Down, Thumbs-Up.

    Mamou's picture kept freezing and unfreezing, occasionally turning into chunky blocks as the bandwidth fluctuated.

    It was like a garbled transmission from a starship in distress. "Maman," Mom said, "Darius and Stephen want to say hello." Maman is another Farsi word that means both a person and a relationship—in this case, mother. But it could also mean grandmother, even though technically that would be mamanbozorg.

    I was pretty sure maman was borrowed from French, but Mom would neither confirm nor deny.

    Dad and I knelt on the floor to squeeze our faces into the camera shot, while Laleh sat on Mom's lap in her rolling office chair.

    "Eh! Hi, maman! Hi, Stephen! How are you?"

    "Hi, Mamou," Dad said.

    "Hi," I said.

    "I miss you, maman. How is your school? How is work?"

    "Um." I never knew how to talk to Mamou, even though I was happy to see her.

    It was like I had this well inside me, but every time I saw Mamou, it got blocked up. I didn't know how to let my feelings out.

    "School is okay. Work is good. Um."

    "How is Babou?" Dad asked.

    "You know, he is okay," Mamou said. She glanced at Mom and said, "Jamsheed took him to the doctor today."

    As she said it, my uncle Jamsheed appeared over her shoulder. His bald head looked even tinier. "Eh! Hi, Darioush! Hi, Laleh! Chetori toh?"

    "Khoobam, merci," Laleh said, and before I knew it, she had launched into her third retelling of her latest game of Heads-Down, Thumbs-Up.

    Dad smiled and waved and stood up. My knees were getting sore, so I did the same, and edged toward the door.

    Mom nodded along with Laleh and laughed at all the right spots while I followed Dad back down to the living room.

    It wasn't like I didn't want to talk to Mamou.

    I always wanted to talk to her.

    But it was hard. It didn't feel like she was half a world away, it felt like she was half a universe away—like she was coming to me from some alternate reality.

    It was like Laleh belonged to that reality, but I was just a guest.

    I suppose Dad was a guest too. At least we had that in common.

    Dad and I sat all the way through the ending credits—that was part of the tradition too—and then Dad went upstairs to check on Mom.

    Laleh had wandered back down during the last few minutes of the show, but she stood by the Haft-Seen, watching the goldfish swim in their bowl.

    Dad makes us turn our end table into a Haft-Seen on March 1 every year. And every year, Mom tells him that's too early. And every year, Dad says it's to get us in the Nowruz spirit, even though Nowruz—the Persian New Year—isn't until the first day of spring.

    Most Haft-Seens have vinegar and sumac and sprouts and apples and pudding and dried olives and garlic on them—all things that start with the sound of S in Farsi. Some people add other things that don't begin with S to theirs too: symbols of renewal and prosperity, like mirrors and bowls of coins. And some families—like ours—have goldfish too. Mom said it had something to do with the zodiac and Pisces, but then she admitted that if it weren't for Laleh, who loved taking care of the goldfish, she wouldn't include them at all.

    Sometimes I thought Dad liked Nowruz more than...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 4, 2018
    First-time author Khorram’s coming-of-age novel brings to life the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a culture steeped in tradition. After learning that her Iranian father is ailing, high school sophomore Darius’s mother decides to take the family to visit her father and relatives in Iran. Suffering from chronic depression and bullied at school in America, Darius isn’t sure how he’ll fare in a country he’s never seen. It doesn’t take him long to adjust as people welcome him with open arms, however, especially after he meets Sohrab, his grandparents’ teenaged neighbor, who invites him to play soccer and quickly becomes Darius’s first real friend ever. While the book doesn’t sugarcoat problems in the country (unjust imprisonment and an outdated view of mental illness are mentioned), it mainly stays focused on the positive—Iran’s impressive landscape and mouthwatering food, the warmth of its people—as it shows how a boy who feels like an outcast at home finds himself and true friendship overseas. Ages 12–up. Agent: Molly O’Neill, Waxman Leavell.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2018
    Darius Kellner suffers from depression, bullying by high school jocks, and a father who seems to always be disappointed in him. When Darius' grandfather becomes terminally ill, Darius, along with his parents and younger sister, travels to Iran for the first time in his life. Iranian on his mother's side and white American on his father's side, Darius never quite fits in. He's mocked for his name and nerdy interests at Chapel Hill High School in Portland, Oregon, and doesn't speak enough Farsi to communicate with his Iranian relatives either. When he arrives in Iran, learning to play the Persian card game Rook, socializing, and celebrating Nowruz with a family he had never properly met before is all overwhelming and leaves Darius wondering if he'll ever truly belong anywhere. But all that changes when Darius meets Sohrab, a Baha'i boy, in Yazd. Sohrab teaches Darius what friendship is really about: loyalty, honesty, and someone who has your back in a football (soccer) match. For the first time in a long time, Darius learns to love himself no matter what external forces attempt to squash his confidence. Khorram's debut novel is filled with insight into the lives of teens, weaving together the reality of living with mental illness while also dealing with identity and immigration politics.This tear-jerker will leave readers wanting to follow the next chapter in Darius' life. (Fiction. 12-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2018

    Gr 8 Up-Darius is a bullied American teenager dealing with numerous stigmas. His mom is Persian and his "Übermensch" dad is white. He is overweight. He takes medication for depression. He is a devotee of artisanal tea, Star Trek (all seasons), and Tolkien. And there is an unspoken awareness that Darius is gay. He is certain that he is a constant disappointment to his father who also takes antidepressants, which they both consider a weakness. When his family travels to Iran to see his mother's parents because his grandfather (Babou) is dying, Darius experiences shifting perceptions about the country, his extended family, and himself. Debut author Khorram presents meticulous descriptions and explanations of food, geography, religion, architecture, and English translations of Farsi for readers unfamiliar with Persian culture through characters' dialogue and Darius's observations. References to Tolkien, Star Trek, and astronomy minutiae, on the other hand, may be unclear for uninitiated readers. Despite the sometimes overly didactic message about the importance of chronic depression treatment, Darius is a well-crafted, awkward but endearing character, and his cross-cultural story will inspire reflection about identity and belonging. VERDICT A strong choice for YA shelves. Give this to fans for Adam Silvera and John Corey Whaley.-Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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