“It’s okay not to be okay.”
I guess writing about my 5 star crisis helped to break that horrible jinx that I was going through this year, because I found a five star read less than a week after scheduling it.
And as you can see by the title, it’s this masterpiece.
Spoiler: I loved it.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay follows Darius, a biracial teen who flies to Iran with his parents and younger sister to connect with his Iranian side of the family and his grandparents. Darius has grown up in America his whole life, and heading to Iran is a completely scary experience for him.
Something you should know about this book is that I cried at least six different times during the book (and when I say at least six different times I mean on separate occasions), which is not only incredibly impressive but also notoriously difficult. I am one of the most stone-cold readers out there, and I can count on one hand the number of books that genuinely made me cry.
If you all want to know how emotional I was reading this book, my main memories of reading this book were trying not to cry on the train home and trying not to full-on sob at home when my sister was reading next to me. No joke.
Khorram has crafted such an absolutely beautiful and gorgeous novel. It was such a cathartic and tender novel, which made me cry, laugh, smile, and then break my heart while simultaneously gluing it back together.
It is a beautiful novel about Persian culture, friendship, mental health and finding yourself in a world that rejects anything that it does not consider to be the norm.
I absolutely loved reading about Iran. I have never been to Iran myself, nor have I read a book set in Iran, but something I absolutely always have loved in books was exploring different cultures. I loved learning about all the Persian food, the traditions, the different landmarks and cities, and absolutely everything about it.
Darius suffers from clinical depression, which his dad also goes through, and the representation was absolutely wonderful and so eye-opening to see. While I do not have clinical depression myself, the representation of clinical depression was absolutely phenomenal to read about, especially since it is so rarely seen in YA.
Granted, I’m not an OV reader, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt! However, I personally identified with many of Darius’s thoughts regarding depression, and I really appreciated how it called out the stigma around it, especially in regards to how older family members perceived Darius’s conditions and Darius’s feelings on that.
In the novel, Darius has had a tense relationship with his father, and the book truly did an EXCELLENT job at portraying their relationship, and really delving into Darius’s hurt and feelings of abandonment by both of his parents. It was A+ and so well done and I loved it with my whole heart and soul.
The biracial representation, in particular, was just so fantastic and I really related to Darius’s feelings of being biracial. While I am not biracial myself, I was primarily raised in a western environment and am not particularly well-versed in actually being Chinese. Therefore, I could truly relate to Darius’s feelings of alienation, especially amongst his Persian peers/family, and feeling not Persian enough, which is something that DEEPLY resonated with me since it was an experience that I myself have gone through. I was far too familiar with Darius’s hurt when he was constantly told he wasn’t Persian enough because it is something I myself go through too. I’m seen as too white, especially in terms of mannerisms, behavior etc. (while being true, is still hurtful to be called out upon) to be properly considered Chinese, but also too Asian to be considered white if that makes sense?
This review is high-key a mess, and I’m sorry, but I don’t have the eloquence to describe what an EXPERIENCE this was. It made ME cry multiple times, so if you want to be emotionally wrecked by a book, look no further.
But seriously, Darius the Great Is Not Okay was a GORGEOUS, once-in-a-lifetime, experience that I was beyond honored to be able to have experienced. It is criminally underrated, and I will continue to boost it forever and always. It is so needed and important in today’s world. So many teens would love having this, and it has so much good in it. Darius is truly such a wonderful character to read from, and you will be left wanting more as soon as you read its final words.
Have you read Darius the Great Is Not Okay, and if so, what did you think of it? Are you interested in this book? Have you visited Iran before? What was your most recent 5-star read? I would love to know in the comments.