Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Darius the Great Is Not Okay

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Annotation: Even though he is clinically depressed and speaks better Klingon than Farsi, high school sophomore Darius Kellner must travel to Iran to meet his grandparents; but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life.
Catalog Number: #168085
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Dial
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 314 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-525-55296-0 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-2546-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-525-55296-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-2546-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018009825
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly
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 While the book doesn-t sugarcoat problems in the country (unjust imprisonment and an outdated view of mental illness are mentioned), it mainly stays focused on the positive-Iran-s impressive landscape and mouthwatering food, the warmth of its people-as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. (Aug.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
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
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
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)
Word Count: 67,923
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.7 / points: 10.0 / quiz: 198253 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:17.0 / quiz:Q75087
Lexile: HL710L

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 in Farsi. Some people add other things that don't begin with 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 the rest of us combined.

Maybe it let him feel a little bit Persian. Maybe it did.

So our Haft-Seen was loaded with everything tradition allowed, plus a framed photo of Dad in the corner. Laleh insisted we had to add it, because Stephen begins with the sound of S.

It was hard to argue with my sister's logic. "Darius?"

"Yeah?"

"This goldfish only has one eyeball!"

I knelt next to Laleh as she pointed at the fish in question. "Look!"

It was true. The largest fish, a leviathan nearly the size of Laleh's hand, only had its right eye. The left side of its head-- face--(do fish have faces?)--was all smooth, unbroken orange scales.

"You're right," I said. "I didn't notice that."

"I'm going to name him Ahab."

Since Laleh was in charge of feeding the fish, she had also taken upon herself the solemn duty of naming them.

"Captain Ahab had one leg, not one eye," I pointed out. "But it's a good literary reference."

Laleh looked up at me, her eyes big and round. I was kind of jealous of Laleh's eyes. They were huge and blue, just like Dad's. Everyone always said how beautiful Laleh's eyes were.

No one ever told me I had beautiful brown eyes, except Mom, which didn't count because (a) I had inherited them from her, and (b) she was my mom, so she had to say that kind of thing. Just like she had to call me handsome when that wasn't true at all.

"Are you making fun of me?"

"No," I said. "I promise. Ahab is a good name. And I'm proud of you for knowing it. It's from a very famous book."

"Moby the Whale!"

"Right."

I could not bring myself to say Moby-Dick in front of my little sister.

"What about the others?"

"He's Simon." She pointed to the smallest fish. "And he's Garfunkel. And that's Bob."

I wondered how Laleh was certain they were male fish.

I wondered how people identified male fish from female fish. I decided I didn't want to know.

"Those are all good names. I like them." I leaned down to kiss Laleh on the head. She squirmed but didn't try that hard to get away. Just like I had to pretend I didn't like having tea parties with my little sister, Laleh had to pretend she didn't like kisses from her big brother, but she wasn't very good at pretending yet.

I took my empty cup of genmaicha to the kitchen and washed and dried it by hand. Then I filled a regular glass with water from the fridge and went to the cabinet where we kept everyone's medicine. I sorted through the orange capsules until I found my own.

"Mind grabbing mine?" Dad asked from the door. "Sure."

Dad stepped into the kitchen and slid the door closed. It was this heavy wooden door, on a track so that it slid into a slot right behind the oven. I didn't know anyone else who had a door like that.

When I was little, and Dad had just introduced me to Star Trek, I liked to call it the Turbolift Door. I played with it all the time, and Dad played too, calling out deck numbers for the computer to take us to like we were really on board the Enterprise.

Then I accidentally slid the door shut on my fingers, really hard, and ended up sobbing for ten minutes in pain and shock that the door had betrayed me.

I had a very sharp memory of Dad yelling at me to stop crying so he could examine my hand, and how I wouldn't let him hold it because I was afraid he was going to make it worse.

Dad and I didn't play with the door anymore after that.

I pulled down Dad's bottle and set it on the counter, then popped the lid off my own and shook out my pills.

Dad and I both took medication for depression.

Aside from Star Trek--and not speaking Farsi--depression was pretty much the only thing we had in common. We took different medications, but we did see the same doctor, which I thought was kind of weird. I guess I was paranoid Dr. Howell would talk about me to my dad, even though I knew he wasn't supposed to do that kind of thing. And Dr. Howell was always honest with me, so I tried not to worry so much.

I took my pills and gulped down the whole glass of water. Dad stood next to me, watching, like he was worried I was going to choke. He had this look on his face, the same disappointed look he had when I told him about how Fatty Bolger had replaced my bicycle's seat with blue truck nuts.

He was ashamed of me. He was ashamed of us.

Übermensches aren't supposed to need medication.

Dad swallowed his pills dry; his prominent Teutonic Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he did it. And then he turned to me and said, "So, you heard that Babou went to the doctor today?"

He looked down. A Level Three Awkward Silence began to coalesce around us, like interstellar hydrogen pulled together by gravity to form a new nebula.

"Yeah. Um." I swallowed. "For his tumor?" I still felt weird saying the word out loud. Tumor.

Babou had a brain tumor.

Dad glanced at the turbolift door, which was still closed, and then back to me. "His latest tests didn't look good."

"Oh." I had never met Babou in person, only over a computer screen. And he never really talked to me. He spoke English well enough, and what few words I could extract from him were accented but articulate.

He just didn't have much to say to me.

I guess I didn't have much to say to him either. "He's not going to get better, Darius. I'm sorry." I twisted my glass between my hands.

I was sorry too. But not as sorry as I should have been. And I felt kind of terrible for it.

The thing is, my grandfather's presence in my life had been purely photonic up to that point. I didn't know how to be sad about him dying.

Like I said, the well inside me was blocked. "What happens now?"

 "Your mom and I talked it over," Dad said. "We're going to Iran."



Excerpted from Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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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