Portman, Frank. King Dork. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006.
Intended Audience: Ages 14-up
Personal reaction to the book
King Dork is a semi-parody of The Catcher in the Rye and is told from the perspective of Tom Henderson, a teen growing up in California in the late 90’s-early 00’s (dates are kind of ambiguous). He is alienated and bullied at his high school, and pretty much his only friend is Sam Hellerman.
Tom and Sam are in a band together with a name that’s always changing.
King Dork covers the fall of Tom’s sophomore year, in the course of which he a) tries to track down the mystery of his father’s death, b) tries to track down the mystery of this girl Fiona who he made out with at a party once, and c) practices with his band as they prepare for a battle of the bands at the end of the semester.
Overall, I liked King Dork quite a lot, perhaps most of all because of Tom’s voice. He was extremely self-deprecating and cracking jokes at his own defense, was humble, and was realistic about his status in high school. He was witty, which I appreciate. In some ways this book kind of reminded me of John Green’s books, and in fact there is a quote on the back of the book from John Green urging people to read King Dork.
I also especially loved the secondary characters like Little Big Tom, Tom’s not-quite-official step-father. About the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the way it ended. It ended on an odd note that was basically about how awesome it was that Tom’s now able to have two girlfriends at once and that he’s finally popular now because of his band. Then in an epilogue Sam and Tom muse over the true nature of Tom’s dad’s death. For me, the mystery about his dad was the most intriguing part about the book, and I thought it left a kind of bad impression of Tom to end it in a way that that seemed less important than “chicks and rock and roll.” I would recommend this book to boys and girls alike, especially those who want a humorous story.
Also, I am pleased to note that Frank Portman has a sequel coming out this year called King Dork Approximately. I entered to win a copy from Netgalley, so we’ll see if the gods will smile on me.
- Although Frank Portman spends most of his time writing, he did find two books enjoyable recently. Portman liked Karel Capek’s War with the Newts and Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude.
- Before he was a YA writer, Portman was part of an East Bay punk rock band called the Mr. T Experience.
- Portman describes the follow-up to King Dork as being a “love story.”