Rebecca’s Pick: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Named after the third Persian King of the Achaemenid Empire – Darius feels anything but Great.
As a “Fractional Persian,” Darius is a high school teenager who doesn’t fit in at school or at home because he doesn’t act (or look) exactly like everyone else. He’s caught in this in-between space of not believing himself adequate enough to really belong anywhere.
When his family decides to take a trip to Yazd in Iran to visit his maternal grandparents Darius anticipates his shortcomings that will be put on display when he’s around “True Persians.”
Having only seen his mother’s family from a computer monitor, he already doesn’t feel completely connected with them; like they’re not real.
But, once he gets to know them, he realizes that some connections are stronger than electrical wires.
I will say this book started out a little slow for me, and at times repetitive. I’m all for a good Lord of the Rings reference, but those and the Star Trek nods were a little overused. We get it – he’s a nerd.
Aside from that, this was a sweet, heartfelt read that made me choke up a little at times. The author described Darius’s family, especially his grandparents, so well that I wanted to reach out and hug them. I caught myself smiling from ear-to-ear when Mamou spoke; she was strong yet comforting, which made me think of my own grandmother.
The attention to detail regarding not only the Iranian landscape, but also the language and especially the food was mesmerizing and insightful. I felt like I was Darius, trying to learn and understand the customs of Persian culture and wanting to know more.
Depression played a huge role in this story, and it was illustrated in a very realistic light. The emotional turmoil felt truthful, but not pitiful. We get to see mostly Darius’s point of view as he works hard to not let his depression consume his life.
Darius was sometimes annoying, but he was always ultimately endearing & sweet. His character felt very true to life, which is why I was invested in where his story went.