King Dork

So I finished my database project (and the class) and I’m doing another YA write-up. What a nerd!
King Dork was recommended by my sister just a tad too late for me to include it in my project. It was on the 2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults list (retrieved August
15, 2009 from Seth Gordon is in talks to direct a movie version, produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay (retrieved August 15, 2009 from
Author: Frank Portman
ISBN-10: 0385732910 ISBN-13:9780385732918
City and Publisher: New York: Delacorte
Copyright Date: 2006
Author’s Website:

Reader’s Annotation: Although he is an outcast, disaffected high school student himself, Tom Henderson rejects the cult of Catcher in the Rye. He navigates his own way through loser-dom; deciphering the mysteries created by his dead father and semi-hot girls.

Plot Summary: Tom Henderson, known as Chi-Mo after an unfortunate middle school career counseling session, is the ultimate high school outcast. His dorkdom is so complete that if a poker player were dealt Tom’s card, the king of dorks, that player would automatically lose. In his freshman year, he must deal with deciphering the mystery of his father’s death, the make-out fake-out, and sadistic torment delivered by the school’s normals. Luckily his friend Sam Hellerman is always present for band practice, no matter what name they have decided on that week.

Critical Evaluation: King Dork‘s Tom Henderson is a cross between Adrian Mole and a Daniel Pinkwater character (Leonard Neeble, Walter Galt, Robert Nifkin…take your pick). His narration skitters and turns; it is easily distracted but authentic. King Dork provides a clear insight into the mind of a teenage loser. Tom is a character with whom readers will easily empathize. Despite the novel’s point of view and style, it falls a little flat. Nothing much happens; as Tom describes late in the novel, he doesn’t learn any lessons and nothing really changes. Nevertheless, King Dork is an excellent teen loser confessional. It also provides the world’s best recipe for adult embarrassment of a teen: wear a turban.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 and up
Curriculum Ties: King Dork’s preoccupation with Catcher in the Rye indicates an intriguing tie-in. King Dork would be an interesting companion volume, allowing students to examine themes of alienation and coming of age from a different perspective.
Booktalking Ideas: Ask teens to come up with a band name, logo and pseudonym. Talk about being a dork and give a short plot summary.

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Other Genres/Subgenres: Humor

Challenge Issues: Sex, drugs and rock and roll are both a theme and an actuality in this book. Violence, in the forms of both bullying and suicide, is a defining issue for the main character. A teacher is also revealed as a child pornographer, without graphic details. As a whole these challenging concepts mostly remain as concepts; they happen but are not generally intimately described.

About the Author: Although King Dork is Portman’s first book, he has already achieved notoriety with his band, The Mr. T Experience. His second book, Andromeda Klein, is scheduled for release on August 25th, 2009. (More info at


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