Read This Book

Read This Book: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.

Content warning: depression, discussion of suicide, bullying

Darius the Great is Not Okay is a memorable book about Darius, an Iranian-American teen who loves tea, lives with depression, and struggles with feeling like he’s “enough” no matter where he goes. When the book begins, Darius is being bullied at school and his white dad doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. The lack of empathy is frustrating for Darius because his dad is the only other one in the family also taking medication for clinical depression, so Darius thinks he’d understand how hard life can be. Then the family receives word that Darius’s maternal grandfather, who lives in Iran, is sick. The family drops everything and travels across the world, and Darius and his little sister meet his mother’s extended family in person for the first time. In Iran, Darius finds more reasons to stick out–at home, he’s too Persian, and here he’s too American. But he also meets Sohrab, a boy his age who lives next door to his grandparents, and in Sohrab, Darius finds his first real friend.

This book is surprisingly funny amidst all of its soul-searching and family angst, and Darius is a winning protagonist. He’s warm and sensitive, inquisitive and funny, vulnerable and so honest. I adored his love of tea, how he loves his little sister, and his bravery in connecting with people in a new place. This book also offers a great perspective on mental illness–at the beginning of the book, Darius’s depression is managed responsibly with medication, and a lot of his hang ups have to do with his relationship with his dad, who seems so distant to Darius that he refers to him by his first name. The mental illness discussion is further explored when Darius discovers that his Persian family views mental illness very differently, and he has to rely on what he knows to be true about his depression–that it’s manageable with medication–in order to stay strong. The friendship angle is so delightful. It doesn’t quite verge into the territory of romance, but the deep understanding that Darius and Sohrab share is uplifting and allows Darius to learn to be okay with who he is, and who he isn’t. This is a YA book, but I recommend it for fans of great family stories that get to the heart of cultural differences, mental illness, and what it means to find self-acceptance. It’s also great for readers who loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Bonus: I listened to the audio, and it was narrated wonderfully by Michael Levi Harris. Plus, a sequel is on the horizon! Darius the Great Deserves Better will hit shelves on August, so now’s the time to read this great book!

Happy reading!


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