DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY by ADIB KHORRAM
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Now that I’ve read Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner. Following Iranian-American teen, Darius Kellner, Darius the Great is Not Okay is a beautiful story about self-discovery, family, and friendship. When Darius and his family find out Darius’s grandfather is dying, they go to visit his home in Iran (Yazd, to be precise), where Darius makes a new friend and connects with his Iranian family.
This book is much more character-driven than it is plot-driven, and that’s not a bad thing. Darius might be a quiet book t o some, but to me, it spoke volumes about Darius as a character. As I read the book, I just wanted to reach inside the pages and hug Darius, who is tall and admittedly overweight. He is constantly picked on by his classmates for being weird, for his obsession with Star Trek. He doesn’t have the best relationship with his white father, Stephen, either. On top of all that, Darius has clinical depression, for which he takes medication. He inherited it from his father, and one major thread of the book is how depression functions in families.
Aside from wanting to hug Darius, who is precious and wonderful in every way, I loved Darius’s new friend, Sohrab. Sohrab takes to Darius immediately and reading about their friendship made me grin from ear to ear .Sohrab is so kind to Darius and makes an effort to understand him, which Darius never had before meeting Sohrab. They call each other “the best friends they never had,” and I’ll admit to tearing up in these instances because I was so happy the two of them found one another.
If Darius the Great sounds relentlessly sad to you, that’s not the case. This book is, at its core, full of hope for our titular main character. It’s a complicated hope, because people and our feelings are complicated, but it’s still there. Darius makes a friend. Darius reconnects with his grandparents. Darius even patches things over this his father. Darius is not the same kid he is at the beginning of the book, and I appreciated reading his journey to the very last page.
I also wanted to point out the writing style. Some reviewers don’t like how spare it is, but not this one. I loved Khorram’s writing and how raw it was. It’s spare in a way that’s very effective to Darius’s character. it doesn’t leave us wanting. I’d say it’s even more impactful in its sparseness than it would be if Khorram used a bunch of adjectives.
All in all, Darius the Great is Not Okay is a deeply moving story. I loved it. I loved learning about Iran, I loved Darius, I loved Sohrab, and I think you might love it too. You can check out our copy at the Argenta Library today!