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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734509
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

    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:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=mr+t+experience&rh=n%3A163856011%2Ck%3Amr+t+experience&ajr=0

    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
    http://www.facebook.com/frankportman
    http://doktorfrank.tumblr.com/
    doktorfrank.com (blog)


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

    Customer Reviews

    Several times I laughed out loud while reading this book.
    S. S. PADUA
    I may be one of those "middle aged people who try to make kids read books" but kids need us to push them into reading good stuff.
    Jenny
    It recovered a little before the very end, but not fully.
    grrlpup

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By grrlpup on September 27, 2007
    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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    9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. Layne on May 8, 2006
    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.
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    18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By H James Lucas on March 5, 2009
    Format: Paperback
    This book, like many specimens of "teen fiction," seems to be written in the hopes of boosting the confidence of its young readers. Amazingly, Mr Portman seems to think that the best way to give boys the confidence to interact with the opposite sex is to teach them to think of their female classmates as concubines instead of peers. Not a single female character is given either depth nor admirable traits. The protagonist's mother is an addled alcoholic; his sister is a stepfather-hating shrew; his psychiatrist is an ineffectual egotist; his sexual partners are utterly hollow, lacking any resemblance of self-respect. The disrespectful portrayal of women is layered on so thickly that it seems for much of the book that some irony must be intended, that a lesson will be learned in the end, but any hopes for that are stripped by the protagonists apparently earnest advice to the reader:

    "If you're in a band, even an extremely sucky band, girls, even semihot ones..., will totally mess around with you and give you b***j**s, provided you can assure them that no one will ever find out about it. Start a band. Or go around saying that you're in a band, which is, let's face it, pretty much the same thing. The quality of your life can only improve."

    A number of anachronisms in the book indicate that the author, despite attempting to set the book in 2000 (give or take a year), has actually set the book in 1990 (give or take a year): No one listens to Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine, fifteen-year-olds make allusions to Ronald Reagan, and no one uses computers while researching at the library. Normally I find such inconsistencies to be a source of frustration, but here I cherish them.
    Read more ›
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    29 of 40 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Bristol VINE VOICE on May 3, 2006
    Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
    If this author was Harvard bound, younger and more photogenic, perhaps he'd have a shot at the half million advance awarded to Kaavya "The Internalizer" Viswanathan whose plagiarism scandal recently rocked the literary world. He'd certainly deserve it, as there is no evidence that he himself didn't compose "King Dork" which is one of the best novels about the high school experience that I've read in a long time.

    This book is a far more accurate, painful and hilarious look at the world of adolescence. If you identify with books in which which Nerd Girl gets a brand name makeover, sleeps with Campus Stud, winds up with Brooding Artist, makes a speech about values and gets into the Ivy League, then you probably won't enjoy "King Dork." If on the other hand, you are still mourning the cancellation of "Freaks and Geeks," then you probably will.

    "King Dork" had me laughing and nodding my head in recognition from the first page to the last, whereas with the makeover type books I just snicker and wonder what universe the authors are living in to create a high school world that's 100 percent fantasy and fluff. What a shame that a book like "King Dork" that actually tells it like it isn't given half the (pre scandal) press of a book like "How Opal Mehta." For such a threadbare concept - young alienated man comes of age with the help of books, music and the opposite sex, it's still fresh and original.
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