Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram, Dial Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780593108239, 2020
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? If you loved Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Khorram’s first book (published in 2018), it’s your lucky day, because the fractional Iranian is back. As you may know from that entry, Darius has depression, lives with his mom and dad (the latter also has the condition) and his younger sister Laleh, and is absolutely obsessed with Star Trek and tea. But a lot has changed since the trip to Iran to spend time with his grandmother and (dying) grandpa. He’s on the soccer team now and has come out as gay. He’s got a boyfriend and is an intern at Rose City Tea. There’s also the nagging feeling that Chip, fellow soccer player and former tormenter, is sort of cute. There’s so much plot jammed into this second book (including a trans American grandma, resurfacing depression in dad, financial worries, problems at Laleh’s school, etc.) that I worried occasionally that the whole edifice might simply topple over.
But fortunately, that never happened. I think Khorram has succeeded wonderfully at giving us a character for the ages. Darius musing about whether he’s ready to have sex and the affectionate but realistically awkward conversation he has with his dad were priceless. I think all teens and even most adults will identify with his self-conscious dialogues about his slightly paunchy stomach and his post-practice reek, about the joy he finds from having real friends at last and his admiration for his soccer coach. You can almost feel the growth pains as he moves from last year’s unsure sophomore to this year’s bigger and more confident junior.
Anything you didn’t like about it? At first, I wondered if I’d missed something; wait, Darius came out? But as I settled into the rhythm of the story, I came to respect the author’s decision to focus on what happens after you come out. There’s some homophobia to contend with, but the focus is more on Darius being accepted by his family and friends and learning to navigate his sexuality. Good choice. I did think the tea stuff got a bit old, but I get that it’s an important cultural touchstone.
To whom would you recommend this book? Although the first book could work from grade 8 and up, this one has some explicit physical passages, so I’m thinking grade 9 and up. Fans of the first book will be hooked and hopefully it will get others to read it. I definitely think it would work better to read them in order.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it? Young adult
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes! Team Darius all the way.
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: September 10, 2020
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