“I was one tiny pulsar in a swirling, luminous galaxy of Iranians, held together by the gravity of thousands of years of culture and heritage.”
What a lovely book.
I read this book in one day, and I enjoyed every second. This book has stayed with me for days. Even now, a week later, I find myself thinking about these characters and everything they’ve left with me.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay follows Darius, a Persian boy who finds out his grandfather has a brain tumor, which leads to his entire family traveling to Iran to spend some time with him. Darius was an excellent narrator. Since his father is Caucasian, he spends a lot of time exploring his Persian culture through his mother’s side of the family. I liked that I got to see things through his perspective because I came to understand his culture with the same amount of curiosity he did. I loved learning about how important tea was for his culture. I love tea, but I clearly don’t love it as much.
Darius’s culture was so prominent in the story because he spent a lot of time with his family. I absolutely loved that. His grandparents were really great people. His grandmother was sweet and kind, and she reminded me so much of mine. His grandfather was a bit more complicated, but I liked that. Sometimes, you can’t really connect instantly with members of your family. I liked the way he talked about knowing his family in Iran through nothing more than video calls. That’s true for me as well, and for many other immigrants in America. I also loved the food he got to eat, and the way everything was described.
The complicated relationship Darius had with his father was so realistic. I liked the way he wanted to connect with him, spend quality time with him, but still disliked many things about him. I liked that his father wasn’t painted as a bad guy, but he wasn’t great either. These gray areas are so important, because that’s the reality of the world. Parents are human, and they make so many mistakes. It’s important to see them portrayed like this. My favorite thing was that both Darius and his father suffered from depression, and they were actually treating it with medication. How great is that? This is something I don’t think I’ve ever read about in a YA book. Mental illness can definitely be inherited through your parents (I speak from personal experience) and it’s good to see that they both took the time and care to find the right medication. The conversations this brought up were important as well, especially considering the stigma against mental illness in Iran, as well as many other countries. I know in Mexico, my family shies away from any conversation about mental illness. The portrayal of depression was necessary and well executed.
I left my precious Sohrab for the end because he is very special to me, and I still haven’t fully processed my thoughts on him. Sohrab is a young boy Darius befriends in Iran. A very sweet, charming boy that helps out Darius’s grandparents as much as possible, who’s basically another member of the family. They play a few games of soccer, which is my favorite sport, so I was ecstatic about this. I loved that Darius could confide in Sohrab about everything, and Sohrab genuinely cared for him. I loved their friendship so much. It was so sweet and so natural and so freeing. It broke my heart any time they had any argument because them not being friends just felt wrong to me. I loved everything about Darius and Sohrab. Their scenes were some of my favorites.
The only reason I’m not one-hundred percent in love with this book (more like ninety-five percent, which is still pretty high) is because I knew there was potential to explore Darius’s sexuality. It was there all along. It was right on the surface, ready to be seen, but it never was. Darius’s sexuality was never explored. It was maybe hinted at, but that’s it. I’m not entirely sure why they author decided not to go there, when all the signs were there, but alas, that’s not something we got to see. Even without the exploration of sexuality, I thought the book was incredible. I loved it all so much. I would read a sequel. So many sequels. I loved Darius, his family, and my dear Sohrab.