Ensiform's Reviews > King Dork

King Dork by Frank Portman
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Dec 15, 12

bookshelves: fiction, music
Read in March, 2008

The title high school outcast (Henderson, or the more derogatory Chi-Mo) narrates the events that occurred one school year, when the discovery of his dead father’s books from high school open up disturbing questions about how he died. Meanwhile dealing with the psychopathic sadists at his school (students and teachers alike), girls he lusts after, codes, French, having an expansive vocabulary, and the perils of forming a rock band all complicate his life --- the more so because every new thing in his life seems to connect to the past in some way. It all hinges on an old copy of The Catcher in the Rye of his father’s, and how Henderson views with contempt the Baby Boomer generation and their “cult of Holden.”

The various threads of the plot are so convoluted and revealing (there’s a lot of foreshadowing and clues and delicious ambiguity) that I can’t do it justice with a summary. Portman (who is Dr. Frank from the Mr. T Experience) has crafted an amazing joyride of a “young-adult” novel; it’s hilarious and poignant at the right moments, and ends up somehow being not only a commentary on music, literature, teaching, adolescence, sex, and family, but very much a Catcher for the 21st century. It’s a sort of postmodern meta-commentary on Catcher itself. Though this is touted as a YA novel, it hit home with me for a lot of obvious reasons (I was an outcast in school, I was part of the Catcher cult between 15-20 years of age, I studied French, etc). It’s really an amazingly well-crafted novel for anyone who distrusted or distrusts “normal” people. The only thing that didn’t feel right to me was Henderson’s take on music: he listens only to punk, glam rock and bubblegum. While I’m sure there are a few teenagers today who profess to enjoy only music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, the music is presented only in album form: there’s no talk of downloads or mp3s or even CDRs. Clearly, this is Dr. Frank, born 1966, talking, and not Henderson, who is 15 in 2001. That’s a nitpick, though. Seriously, if I had read this book in high school, it may have Changed My Life.
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