Book Review: Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

 This cover is everything

This cover is everything

Darius the Great Is Not Okay
by Adib Khorram
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: stand alone
Published: August 28th 2018
Rating: I loved this more than words and Darius needs to let me know how he is doing from time to time. I am sorry I don’t make the rules.
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I think I kept seeing it on twitter and as a recommended book on Goodreads.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is an #ownvoices book about Darius Kellner a half white half Persian sixteen-year-old boy living in Portland whose parents decide that it is time for them to visit Iran for the first time in his life.

One of the main themes of the book is figuring out how to be "enough" for the people around you. Darius feels as if he isn't American enough in America, Persian enough in Iran, "sane" enough, or just right enough for his father. It was so touching to read about him figuring out what expectations he should meet and what he can let go to be himself. I think that this book would be a great addition to international schools because of that. One of the greatest things about reading is the ability to connect with characters who on the surface are completely different than yourself. I am not Persian (True or Fractional), male, or a teenager. It doesn't matter. Darius was such a real character that the reader knows, understands, and hopefully is able to see the world through his eyes for a little while. Darius is one of the best characters that I have read in a long time. He feels like a person that I know and someone that I would want to spend time with and check on. I want him to be okay and happy.

The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.

The other main theme of this book was friendship. How do you make friends with people when it just doesn't seem natural to you. I was an adult before I found "my people" and I related so much to the relief and joy of finding others who get you. Darius's friendship with Sohrab was so beautiful and moving. I am glad to read about an emotional and healthy friendship between boys. Representation matters in all ways.

Bonus points for have some of this most accurate and relatable section on crazy long international flights. How gross you feel, the weirdness of international airport Subway, and the terrible feeling that you both need to sleep for days and the way you can't sleep for more than ten-minute snatches. I felt all of that.

The depiction of depression is sensitive and realistic. I know that depression can look different for different people, but this felt as if it was the way that Darius experiences depression. He takes medication for it, and the book touches on the difficulty in getting the dosage right. Not enough books tackle this and it makes Darius that much more real.

And have I mentioned the food? My appreciation for food in literature is well documented, and this book was delicious edition. There is such a love and a reverence for Iranian food that I cannot even. I was writing down and googling food words all the way through this book because I am not going to go any more time without these in my life. Crispy rice for-evah!

Darius the Great is Not Okay is also a great addition to my Iran book list. It is funny and touching and I read almost all of it in one sitting. I regret nothing expect not ordering food earlier and the fact that I took this long to get to the book even though I had it preordered. Don't be like me, read it now.

From Goodreads:

Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it's pretty overwhelming--especially when he's also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom's family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what's going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don't have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he's spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush--the original Persian version of his name--and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab. When it's time to go home to America, he'll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Mini Reviews #4

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We'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We'll Fly Away
by Bryan Bliss

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: May 8th 2018 
Rating: a watershed book
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Eric Smith on the Hey YA podcast

We'll Fly Away is told in letters from Luke to his best friend Toby from death row and in flashbacks to before the crime. There is a quote at the beginning of the book, "People are more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.” This is the theme of the whole book and delicately managed so that the reader never feels preached to. Male friendship, which doesn't often get fully explored in YA, is touchingly and emotionally explored. This is a book that every American needs to read whatever your feelings about capital punishment.

We are not living in a world that stands still.

From Goodreads:

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña. 


Starfishby Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish
by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: stand alone
Published: September 26th 2017 
Rating: All the feels
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Eric Smith on the Hey YA podcast

Kiko Himura is dealing with an abusive and narcissistic mother as well as her own feelings about being biracial and being an artist. There is a romance, but the real focus is on self-discovery. Kiko has to learn how to fight for what matters to her as well as learn to let go of other. This is one of the most heartbreaking books ever. I think that I ugly cried at least three times while reading this one. The mother is just so awful and at the same time so realistic that it is hard to read but so beautifully written that you can't help but push on.

We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.

From Goodreads:

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.


You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near
by Mitali Perkins 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: stand alone
Published: September 12th 2017
Rating: this made me so happy
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Goodreads

I work at an international school and one of the reasons that I loved this book so much was the fact that the characters were third culture kids. I can see so many of my students identifying with Tara and Shanti's cultural confusion. There is a beautiful passage about not knowing where home is that articulates the experience so well. I do wish that the characterization was slightly stronger, but the writing style was slightly dreamy and poetic. The chapters are written almost in a short story vignettes and would make for a very effective and engaging read aloud.

Where am I from? Can the answer be stories and words, some of theirs, some of mine?

From Goodreads: 

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. 

Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity.


The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: February 23rd 2016
Rating: made me nostalgic for my time in Alaska
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Cait from Paperfury, I think

I used to live in a small fishing village in Alaska so when I praise this book for it's authenticity in representing Alaska and what we might think of like the Alaskan way of life I am not assuming the authenticity I recognize it like an old friend. Alaska itself was almost a character. For a book that is so melancholy, it is extraordinary how heartwarming and hopeful the experience of reading it was. Sometimes a story has heavy themes, and the book can feel like a weight. It was beautifully written with well-crafted characters this was one of the best books that I have read recently.

Sometimes you can be inserted into another person’s life just by witnessing something you were never really supposed to be a part of.

 From Goodreads:

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
 
Four very different lives are about to become entangled.


The Chosen Oneby Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One
by Carol Lynch Williams

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: stand alone
Published: May 12th 2009
Rating: my hearts hurts for her
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Goodreads

Is there anything more terrifying or sad then a young girl in a cult? No, no there isn't. The Chosen One is book about not quite fourteen year old who Kyra lives with her family in a isolated community that is becoming more and more dangerous. When her family is told that she must marry her Uncle Kyra starts to question everything about her life. This book is extermely well researched and resists the urge to make the people around Kyra black and white. It is also the story about how reading and stories can help open children's lives and minds.

I’d never seen so many books. Never. The sight made my eyes water. I mean, tear right up.

From Goodreads:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters. That is, without questioning it much - if you don't count her visits to the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her secret meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. 

But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle - who already has six wives - she must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever. 

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Book Review: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne cover

The Wrong Side of Right
by Jenn Marie Thorne
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: stand alone
Published: March 15 2015
Rating: Politically correct
Times read: 2
Recommended by: AmazonThe is the review of a reread because I recently read The Inside of Out and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to give this one a reread.  I also wanted to reread it in light of the current political apocalypse that is going on.  It is the story of seventeen-year-old Kate Quinn who unexpectedly finds that she is the daughter of the republican candidate for President of the United States.  The premise is a little silly but is grounded quite well.  I never noticed myself being pulled out the story because something seemed unrealistic. 

Here is the thing.  If you are looking for a swoony romance this book is going to disappoint you. It is kind of marketed as such but that kind of does the book a disservice.  There is a romance but it is very much in second place.  The real relationship and character development is between Kate and her new family.  Specifically, between Kate and her father.

One things that I found interesting about this book was the way that Kate’s views and ideas about her mother change.  Her mother has died about a year before the events of the story.  She was a wonderful person and Kate loves her.  She also had secrets.  Kate had to accept that her mother was more than what she seemed.  You can never really know someone completely.  Everyone has hidden places in their souls and events in their past.  One of the biggest steps in growing up is realizing that our parents are people with lives and motivations that extend beyond us. 

But it occurred to me suddenly that trust wasn’t an object, not something that arrived on your doorstep, solid and absolute. It was a decision, a leap.

I really liked Kate.  I understood why she was willing to bend so far and compromise so much to keep this new idea of family.  Even when she was giving in she never felt weak to me.  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I thought that is was touching that the year of smiling for other people after her mother’s death gives her an insight into how her father is feeling and acting on the campaign trail. 

Kate’s father the Senator was a tough nut to crack. Keeps Kate at an emotional distance and watching them both lower their guards to try to become father and daughter was my favorite aspect of the book.  One of the funniest parts of the book was one where she is discussing music with her father and he admits to liking Bob Dylan.  “But you’re Republican!” is her confused response.  But Mark Cooper is the Republican that we all dream about.  You know, the one who is actually working for fiscal responsibility and small business owners rather than pandering to hate.  Smart and well-spoken I wouldn’t be horrified by the people in this fictional world who vote for him

Meg, Kate’s new stepmother is the epitome of grace.  Even though she knew about her husband’s unfaithfulness all though years ago it cannot have been easy to being another woman’s child into your family.  Never once does she take out her stress or frustration on Kate.  I, like Kate, love her unconditionally.

The Wrong Side of Right was funny, well thought out, warm, and well written.  I am going to be look for more of Jenn Marie Thorne’s books as they come out because I am officially a fan.

From Goodreads:

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?