Wednesday, May 17, 2006

King Dork

I've been anxiously awaiting this one after reading much about it. Several members of YALSA-BK are already putting it on their best of 2006 list, which is always a good sign.
It took me several days to get through the book, but not because I wasn't enjoying it (busy, busy, busy!). It is long - 300+ pages, including the bandography & glossary - but Tom Henderson is a great character. He really is a dork - a kid who is awkward, picked on, geeky. He doesn't have any great redeeming talent, and his slights aren't only in his own head - the other kids really think he's a dork. But Tom's smart, even if he doesn't show it much in school, and - like many dorks, I would guess - is pretty cool if you get to know him.
It's the beginning of Tom's sophomore year, and everything is about to change. The year starts out as usual - he's "in a band" with his alphabetical friend Sam Hellerman (for these two "in a band" is more about band names & album covers than actual music), his mom is still in some kind of prolonged mourning for his dead father; his hippie step-dad is just as clueless as ever, and he doesn't expect to learn anything new in school. But this year will be different. This is a year of "mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, guitars, monks, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, the Crusades, a devil head and rock and roll."
It all starts when he finds his dad's copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Tom's not a member of the Catcher cult - he's definitely not a wanna be Holden Caufield - but the book was his dad's, and that alone makes it interesting.
But wait - maybe it started before that, with the party - and Fiona?
Or maybe Sam Hellerman had it planned all along...
Author Frank Portman. aka Dr Frank, is the frontman for the pop-punk band the Mr T Experience (MTX), and the music and literary references are part of what makes King Dork fun. If you can't follow Tom Henderson's music & literary references, Portman has helped out by posting the King Dork Discography & the Supplementary Reading List on his web site. Check it out for the full King Dork experience.

This is a great romp that takes twists and turns when you least expect it, and where you end up is surely not where you thought you'd be. But Tom is a great tour guide.

Portman, Frank. King Dork. New York: Delecorte Press, 2006.

What I'm Reading: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
On My Bookshelf: Not sure many to choose from


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