Darius the Great Is Not Okay

By Adib Khorram,

Book cover of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Book description

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 mum'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…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Darius the Great Is Not Okay as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Right off the bat, Darius jumps off the page as a real teen with relatable problems.

He’s the quiet kid at school, who the others tease. And he suffers from clinical depression. What I loved was how well Khorram tackled depression’s subtleties.

I think there is a tendency for society to see depression as this overarching dark cloud that keeps us in bed 24/7. But the truth is, many people who are suffering, are functional.

From the outside, we don’t see the building up of little moments that act like a snowball gradually expanding as it rolls down the mountain…

On the surface, I don’t have much in common with Darius or Khorram. Both are male, Persian, and gay. I’m none of those thingsand haven’t experienced clinical depression personallyyet I felt Darius’ sadness, longing, and social awkwardness in my bones—and heart. His story was one of tremendous tenderness that had me rooting for him from page one. Khorram does a brilliant job with highlighting the subtleties of depression and feeling lost without ever resorting to cliches or forced histrionics. 

Awkward, unconfident Darius travels with his Iranian mom and American dad to Yazd, his mother’s hometown, where his grandfather has a brain tumor. Darius struggles with depression, and in Yazd he discovers friendship, an ancestral culture with great food, and a sense of belonging and mattering. The author aims to share the experience of depression, stripping it of shaming and easy answers; he also makes a very different culture both distinctive and ordinary, with people who can be small-minded but are mostly kind and generous. Darius makes a friend who also struggles, and their opening to each other is not…

I adored Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great Is Not Okay. This book follows Darius as he visits family in Iran, where he feels as out of place as he had back in America—he doesn't speak Farsi, he lacks proper social customs, and the people (family or otherwise) are resistant to understanding his mental health issues. His relief comes from Sohrab, a family friend who understands Darius in ways no one ever has.

What struck me about this book is that there’s no question about Darius’s depression—it’s always at the forefront. Likewise, Darius’s dad suffers from similar mental health issues.…

From Heather's list on queer YA exploring mental health.

What’s better than a book in which a character, Darius Kellner, knows how to speak fluent Klingon? Well, a book that provides teen readers with an understanding of what it feels like to live with chronic depression and what to do when you feel like you don’t quite fit no matter where you go. One of the features I love most about Adib Khorram’s debut novel is how it artfully describes depression as a potential puzzle piece in one’s life instead of as a defining characteristic, an example we see in brilliant detail when Darius meets Sohrab, the boy who…

This YA novel is the only one on my list that's officially about depression. Darius Kellner, like his father, suffers from depression and is taking medication for it. The story itself is about a family trip back to Iran to visit his mother's parents, during which Darius embarks on a new friendship, feeling like he's expanding into himself for the first time. It's what you might expect from a good teen story about families, conflicting cultural expectations, and complicated friendships, but the matter-of-fact inclusion of Darius's day-to-day navigation of his mental health, and his observations of his father’s struggles with…

First, and very selfishly, I specialized in middle east studies in college, so I loved every piece of this story that takes place in Iran. My other favorite thing is that Darius suffers from clinical depression and it’s not due to an accident or past trauma, it’s simply how his body functions. This book showcases so well that mental illness is like any other illness—and it’s done by using the blocks that so many people on medications face from people who don’t understand this basic principle.

Khorram deftly takes two serious subjects in Darius the Great, coming out to parents and teen depression. It is rare to find books that tackle mental illness with a POC main character. I also loved how Khorram has created a book that is a love story – love of family, love of friendship, and most importantly, the importance of loving oneself. I loved the look into a culture I knew little about. 

From Traci's list on shedding a light on mental illness.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay also deals with depression, not only in the main character, but his father as well. It navigates the relationship between a son and a parent dealing with mental illness, while also dealing with family and the expectations and emotions around that. In addition, Darius is Persian and queer, which gives a different perspective on mental illness from a cultural standpoint. It’s a beautiful, well-written, and intentional story, and you will love it.

From Ronni's list on to make you ugly cry.

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