Darius the Great Deserves Better

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Captivating tale of teen's first love, friendships, growth.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Darius is passionate about all things related to tea. Readers learn what goes on in a tea tasting and about different varieties of tea (Gyokuro, a green tea from Japan that's famous for being shaded three weeks before plucking, teas with exotic names like Dragonwell, and teas that taste buttery or sweet or even like eggplant).

Positive Messages

Storyline emphasizes building self-esteem, making good choices in a relationship, working with teammates, sticking together as a family through tough times.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Darius takes the self-confidence he built while in Iran and continues to build on it throughout the story -- at his job, on the soccer field, with a new group of friends. When the Kellner family face financial hard times, they work together, supporting and encouraging one another. Darius' soccer coach offers a lesson in how to counter "toxic masculinity" on a sports team. Before games and practices, she has them circle up, hold hands, go around the circle saying something kind or helpful a teammate has done for them.

Violence

A girl is verbally bullied by classmates who don't think of her as White. She hits a boy who makes fun of her mother's accent.

Sex

A character feels (and resists) pressure from his more experienced boyfriend to go further sexually than he's comfortable doing. A lot of passionate kissing, some wandering of hands below the waist. A character is embarrassed by having erections after kissing his boyfriend and thinking of another cute boy. Talk of "hooking up" and "jerking off," and a teen admits to watching porn. An adult character has transitioned from male to female. A father makes his son practice putting a condom on a cucumber.

Language

Some profanity ("bulls--t," "a--hole," "crap," "d--k"). A character uses some unusual homophobic slurs: "Dairy Queen."

Consumerism

Characters wear Samba and Adidas shoes, watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, and read The Catcher in the Rye.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adib Khorram's Darius the Great Deserves Better is the sequel to the multi-award-winning Darius the Great Is Not Okay. Sixteen-year-old Darius Kellner and his family have returned from a visit to his mother's family in Iran, and his junior year is off to a better start than the fat, bullied Darius of the first novel ever thought possible. He's not only made the varsity soccer team, but also become good friends with his teammates and begun an internship at his favorite tea shop, and he has his first-ever boyfriend. But he and his father are still battling bouts of depression, and the family's facing some tough financial times. Characters occasionally use strong language ("bulls--t," "a--hole," "crap," "d--k"), and unlike Darius the Great Is Not Okay, this novel includes sexual content. A major storyline deals with the pressure Darius feels from his boyfriend to go further sexually than he's comfortable with. There's a lot of passionate kissing, some wandering of hands below the waist, and characters talk about erections, masturbating, "hooking up," and "jerking off." This is a warm, engaging, and often funny sequel sure to please readers who already know Darius and certain to make fans of teens meeting him for the first time.

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What's the story?

It's a new Darius in DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER. His family's visit to Iran and the friendships he made there have been life changers for the Persian American teen. Once friendless and verbally bullied for being overweight and "different," he's now starting his junior year at a Portland, Oregon, high school confident, in shape, and no longer willing to put up with being bullied. He makes the varsity soccer team, starts an internship at Rose City Teas, and begins a relationship with Landon, the son of the tea shop owner and his first-ever boyfriend. He's even become closer to his father, with whom he's had a distant relationship. But there are still big challenges to be faced. The family's finances are in a precarious state, so his father has taken a temporary job out of town and his mother's working lots of overtime. To fill the gap in parental oversight for Darius and his 9-year-old sister, Laleh, Darius' father has called in Darius' grandmothers to help. "Grandmothers," plural, because his grandfather has transitioned to female and is still married to Darius' grandmother. On top of all this, Landon begins pressuring Darius to take their relationship to the next level sexually, Laleh is being bullied at school, and his grandfather in Iran is dying. Then there's Chip, a soccer teammate who once bullied him but now has become a close friend ... or possibly something more.

Is it any good?

This is a story for any teen who's ever felt "different," a story about what can happen when you find the confidence to step out and grab hold of your dreams. While still filled with warmth and humor, Darius the Great Deserves Better has a sharper edge than Darius the Great Is Not Okay, with more mature storylines about teen sex, homophobia, "toxic masculinity" in sports, and a transgender family member.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Kellner family in Darius the Great Deserves Better deals with a challenging time. Has your family ever been through a tough time? What helped you get through it?

  • Darius and his father have very frank discussions about sex and relationships. Would you be embarrassed to talk that openly with your parents?

  • Has a friend ever pressured you to do something that made you uncomfortable or would have been a bad choice for you?

Book details

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