Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story)

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story) Book Poster Image
Young refugee's story is told in memories, myths, fables.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Everything Sad Is Untrue provides a captivating and accessible introduction to Persian history and myths. There's a lot of discussion about poop and the bathroom habits of different cultures.

Positive Messages

Sharing memories and family stories can bring together people who thought they had nothing at all in common.

Positive Role Models

Daniel credits his mother with being the "unstoppable" one in the family, but he shares her determination and resilience. When it looks as if his attempts to fit in with his classmates will never succeed, he decides to win them over in a really courageous way -- standing in front of his classmates and proudly sharing his family's story and his Persian heritage.


There's an extremely graphic and bloody description of a terrified bull being slaughtered.  Children watch as their mother is beaten by her husband. A classmate verbally and physically bullies characters (punching them and stabbing them with paperclips). A boy is whipped, and a girl loses part of her finger when a classmate intentionally slams it in a door.


A mention in one myth/legend that a king finds his wife "copulating."


Lots of eating of and talking about junk food -- Twinkies, Mounds, and Kit Kat. Characters read Charlotte's Web and The Hobbit and play Final Fantasy and Street Fighter.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character smuggles drugs from Iran to England.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Daniel Nayeri's Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A Srue story) is a "memoir" told through a captivating mix of fiction and nonfiction. It won the 2021 Michael J. Ptintz Award for young adullt literature. Young Khosrou Nayeri's very privileged life in Iran comes to a terrifying end as he, his mother, and his sister flee the country one step ahead of the secret police. Finally settling with his family in Edmond, Oklahoma, Khosrou changes his name to Daniel and struggles to find acceptance from classmates who see him only as a poor refugee who often smells of pickles and garlic. But that perception slowly changes as he becomes a seventh grade Scheherazade, sharing with them tales of Persian kings, khans, and princesses and true (mostly) stories of his life in Iran and in a refugee camp in Italy. Episodes of violence sometimes appear in Daniel's stories and some may be disturbing to readers. There's a very graphic and bloody description of a bull being slaughtered and a scene where a woman is beaten by her husband as her children watch. 


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What's the story?

EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE is a patchwork of stories (some true), myths, and fables, told by 12-year-old Khosrou "Daniel" Nayeri. Born into a family so wealthy his grandfather's grandfather was called a king, young Khosrou lived a privileged life in Iran. But when his mother becomes a Christian (something which meant a death sentence in Iran), she leaves her husband behind and flees to Dubai with Khosrou and his older sister. From Dubai, the family is sent to a refugee camp in Italy until finally gaining sponsors to come to the United States. They settle in Oklahoma, and Khosrou becomes Daniel to his classmates. His mother marries a man named Ray (Rahim), who beats her badly enough to send her to the hospital. At school and on the bus home, Daniel is constantly bullied and punched and often doesn't have enough money to pay for lunch in the cafeteria. Trying to fit in, he joins clubs -- the academic team, Latin team, the cinema club -- and finally makes one friend. Then, he has a chance to stand at the front of Mrs. Miller's class and, like a middle school Scheherazade, try to win over his classmates with stories both fanciful and true. For example, the tragic legend of Tamar, the beautiful governor's daughter who falls in love with Abbas the baker, and the story of a king named Khosrou, who was so rich he had a carpet with flowers made of rubies and emeralds. Therea are also stories of how his great-grandmother, the daughter of a powerful khan, grew up in a house surrounded by saffron fields and was cheated out of her inheritance by her uncles, and how his grandmother fell in love with a librarian, tried to assassinate her husband, and was exiled to England.

Is it any good?

This is a poignant and funny story filled with fables and myths that might just be true and truths clouded by memories of what could have been. One thing that sets Everything Sad is Untrue apart is that it's not divided into chapters. While the idea of tackling 368 pages of free flowing narrative may seem overwhelming for many kids, the story does have natural breaks that will allow readers to put down the story and easily pick it up again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned from Everything Sad is Untrue about the importance of remembering and sharing events and people from your family's past. What do you know about your family's history? Which story about an ancestor of yours would you like to tell to your classmates?

  • How does your school handle bullying? Why do you think so many kids are, like Daniel, reluctant to tell their parents or teachers they're being bullied?

  • Have you ever been the new kid in class, on a sports team, or in a school club? How hard was it for you to fit in? What lessons did you learn from that experience?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love immigrant stories and books about bullying

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