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King Dork Paperback – February 12, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the King Dork Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Frank Portman's dazzling debut novel, frustrated song-writer and high school student Tom Henderson finds his dead father's copy of The Catcher in the Rye, and his life changes forever. Part social satire, part mystery, with a healthy dose of rock music (and angst), King Dork is one of our must-read favorites of the year.
Bonus Content from Frank Portman

Frank Portman (aka Dr. Frank) is not just an author, he's also a musician. We were lucky enough to get a few tracks and a few words from the man behind King Dork, his band The Mr. T. Experience, and the relationship between his book and his music.

"King Dork"
This is the "title track" for my new book. No matter how many times I say that (and I've now said it at least twice by my count) it still sounds strange...Anyhow, I wrote this song for my band, the Mr. T Experience, back in the mid-nineties (you can hear the electrified rock and roll version on the MTX album The Mr. T Experience... and the Women Who Love Them). While I was gingerly, sheepishly exploring the idea of trying to write a book, and not really knowing where to begin, Krista Marino (who was to become my editor at Delacorte) suggested that I try to turn a song into a novel as a way of getting started. I can't remember why I settled on "King Dork" as the song to "novelize," but I started thinking about the narrator/character of this song and after quite a bit of staring at a blank Word document and banging my head against the bar I eventually started typing. I didn't tell anyone at the time, but for months the file entitled "King Dork_(novel)_ms" had only the words "there's no way I can write a whole book, absolutely no way, who am I kidding?" on it. The fact that this did turn into a sort of novel in the end continues to mystify me. So this is an acoustic recording of the song that started it all, in effect. "I'm King Dork and I want you to be my Queen..."

  • Listen to "King Dork"

    "Thinking of Suicide"
    The narrator of King Dork, Tom Henderson, has a band and is trying to figure out how to play his guitar and how to write songs. He writes several songs through the course of the book, and I thought it might be fun actually to come up with the songs rather than just alluding to them in the text. The songs were written by me "as Tom Henderson," know what I mean? "Thinking of Suicide" is one of the first complete songs Tom writes. The title comes from an informational pamphlet for troubled teens handed out by the school. He likes the drawing of the girl on the cover. "This would make a pretty good song," he thinks: "all I had to do was give the girl a name and feel sorry for myself while pretending to be her. And figure out some lyrics and chords and stuff." This song, which incidentally ends up echoing through and complicating his family life, his social life, and his psychological life, is the result.

  • Listen to "Thinking of Suicide"

    "I Wanna Ramone You"
    This one is a little hard to "set up," but I'll give it a shot. There are three strands all tangled up in this song. Strand A: Tom is doing research on the life and times of his mysteriously deceased father, and part of that involves poring over ancient texts like the Bible and The Catcher in the Rye. It's a long story, but in the course of this research he inadvertently learns that the French verb ramoner (which literally means "to scrub out a chimney") can be used as a sexual metaphor. As a rock and roller, he of course immediately thinks of the Ramones, and, voilà, a new English euphemism for sex is born - I ramone, you ramone, he, she or it ramones... (This is useful to him, as it gives him a much cooler metaphor for sex than any of the other ones available; and it proved useful to the author, i.e., me, as well, for pretty much the same reason.) Strand B: Tom is taking Advanced French, which he describes as "a form of the French language in which only the present tense is used. Primarily employed for telling time and for describing the activities of this one guy named Jean and this other guy named Claude." So in writing his song about the timeless power of love, he decides to include some sophisticated, romantic French phrases in the lyrics. Strand C: He has this pretty big crush on a girl from a neighboring town, so he writes a song about her. (As one does in those situations.) "I Wanna Ramone You" is the result, one of his first full-on love songs.

  • Listen to "I Wanna Ramone You"

  • --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

    From School Library Journal

    Grade 10 Up–Tom Henderson (aka King Dork, Chi-mo, Hender-fag, and Sheepie) is a 14-year-old geek who finds solace in music (with his only friend, Tom Hellerman) and in inventing goofy band names (Tennis with Guitars, for one). He loathes The Catcher in the Rye (a revered book at his school) and everything that it stands for. But when he finds his late father's copy of J.D. Salinger's classic, he begins a journey to discover who his father really was. First time author Frank Portman's novel (Delacorte, 2006) is part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, and part running critique on teenage popular culture. Sexual references, vulgar language, and instances of drug use are prevalent, making this a problematic choice for some schools. Narrator Lincoln Hoppe expertly conveys Tom's slyness and shyness. This zany, heartfelt novel is written with panache and will appeal to the teen outsider and musician in every young adult. Portman also provides five original songs and an interview on the recording.–Larry Cooperman, Seminole High School, Sanford, FL
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

    Product Details

    • Paperback: 368 pages
    • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0385734506
    • ISBN-13: 978-0385734509
    • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
    • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

    More About the Author

    I am also known as Dr. Frank, and I write books and songs.

    I've put out a couple of solo records, and my band The Mr. T Experience (MTX) has released around a dozen albums or so over the years.

    They can be found here:


    and also here:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=dr+frank (the two on the right at that last link -- the chubby German guy, that's not me.)

    (Apologies for the ugly formatting: for some reason Amazon doesn't allow html links to its own content in these things.)

    King Dork is my first novel. Andromeda Klein is my second. The forthcoming King Dork Approximately will be my third.

    Behold, my web presence: frankportman.com
    doktorfrank.com (blog)

    My interests include tomatoes, swords, guitars, calculators, movies, TV, and things made of vinyl, wood, and metal.

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: Hardcover
    The boy narrating this story has a perfect teenage voice-- funny, a little too smart and self-conscious about it, alternately defensive and searching. I was in love with it after the first page: I handed the book to someone else with instructions to read the first page. She loved it too. I had a hard time getting the book back.

    The voice keeps its magic all the way through. I liked the device of using a class assignment of one of those "30 days to a better vocabulary" books to justify the narrator's use of words most teenagers wouldn't use.

    The events in the book were nicely balanced between realism and farce. Some plot points were a little larger than life, but nothing too over the top.

    Four stars instead of five? Near the end, the book veered off track on the murder-mystery subplot and lost steam. It recovered a little before the very end, but not fully. This was the last ten pages or so: suddenly I just wasn't interested in picking the book up and finishing it.

    I feel this book is aimed at people my age (late 30s) more than at teenagers. There's something fishy when I know more than half the bands mentioned in the book. Boomer-resentment and Catcher In The Rye backlash are also Gen X phenomenon, I suspect. It didn't bother me, but I can understand why other reviewers called the book dated.

    Beautiful writing, funny, and well worth the read.
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    Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
    This is a weird & delightful & incredibly funny novel. If you hated high school -- or just realized it was a rotten trial designed to crush your expectations for adulthood -- you may well love this book. If you thought high school was awesome, it's doubtful you're shopping for books on Amazon.

    Portman's voice is remarkable and sly. The characters & dialogue are so good throughout the book that the end was kind of disappointing, if only because it ended too much like a normal book with some sort of crisis/climax like novels seem to always have these days. Or maybe I was just reluctant to finish the book at all. And I didn't care for a few clumsy claims that the narrative takes place in our current era and not the early 1980s; it would be a good idea for the publishers to remove those two or three "modern day" references from the paperback edition, which should be in many backpacks when schools starts in Fall. Trivial complaints ...

    "King Dork" is funnier, more honest and better written than just about anything I've read in years. Frank Portman finds that Salinger guy, grinds his head in the gravel & makes the disillusioned clever kid once again safe for literature. Plus, the band names are fantastic, and there's a whole history of rock revealed in the pages.
    1 Comment 9 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    After reading so many great reviews, I was also sucked into reading this novel. It has a lot of promise but it just didn't deliver. As was stated by so many reviewers, the references are very dated, and most teens will be bewildered and possibly bored. The repetition is aggravating as well, and the humor is occasionally off the mark. My biggest concern is about the attitude towards teenage girls, who are looked at as existing mainly to provide sexual favors to the protagonist with no reciprocation and practically no prompting. Not only is this demeaning to females, but for any teenage boys reading this, it adds to the already pervasive attitude that girls are only there for the boys' pleasure. As a children's and young adult librarian, I will steer any kids clear of this book, and instead recommend titles which treat both girls and boys with more respect. Incidentally, I have no problem with sex in YA literature and it definitely has a place, but it all comes down to how it is handled. This was pretty offensive.
    6 Comments 33 of 46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: Paperback
    (Full disclosure: I'm slightly acquainted with the author, and went to high school in the same area, at roughly the same time. My experience was pretty different, although I did recognize some of King Dork's observations, exaggerated though they were.)

    In general, I liked this book, mainly because the voice of the narrator was so amusing. It's hard to say how the teen audience it's aimed at will take it--I see a few positive reviews from teenagers online, but the book also seems a bit dense and wordy for a lot of younger high schoolers. I also agree with some of the other commenters that the book is not believably set in the 21st century--the references were way off, and I doubt any high-school kid from the late 90's on doesn't have a pretty large relationship with computers. Anyone reading "King Dork" would think that computers hadn't been invented yet. King Dork himself even listens to records on vinyl, which you have to go out of your way to do. So one star off for that. I also thought that the editor should have caught a few things where the book disagreed with itself, such as the narrator's comment that his encounter with a girl at a party was the most important thing that ever happened to him. More important than his dad's death?

    Amazon's customer reviewers have a lot of complaints about the plot and the lack of resolution to the story. I had mixed feelings about that myself; I did think the narrator's own ideas about what "the mystery" means were interesting, and will cause kids to think about their own reactions to stories. But on the other hand, most readers will be at least a little disappointed that the story fizzles out in that respect, and I wasn't sure I believed that King Dork himself would really decide just to quit trying to find the truth.
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