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King Dork Approximately Paperback – October 4, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—High school sophomore, aspiring rock star, and self-proclaimed outsider Tom Henderson is back in the sidesplitting follow-up to Portman's acclaimed King Dork (Random, 2006). The book opens with Tom being sent to a new school in the wake of the shutdown of his old school—this time without the benefit of his bandmate and partner in crime Sam Hellerman. New horizons provide more humorous opportunities for Tom to cast a snarky eye over all he sees, from Little Big Tom, the teen's hapless and deeply uncool stepfather, to Clearview High, where school spirit reigns supreme. Portman has crafted a perceptive protagonist, whose brilliantly wry observations will keep readers laughing and whose voice is infused with an all-too-believable mix of innocence and cynicism. An typical adolescent boy despite his intelligence and depth, Tom is realistically frank, dropping in sexual jokes and thoughts, along with the references to rock artists and musicians. The author excels at description and tone, though it's often at the expense of plot. The book introduces a number of amusingly sketched characters and plot threads, few of which culminate into actual story lines. There are also a number of references to events in the first book, which may be confusing to those who haven't read King Dork. Quibbles aside, Tom is a winsome character who rings true and whose escapades will keep readers engaged.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“A hilarious peek into the male adolescent mind . . . [and] inside this sarcastic teen is the soul of a poet who makes this comedic tale a refreshingly insightful read.”—VOYA
“Utterly enjoyable, this book’s culture-meets-romantic-confusion focus makes it a teen take on Nick Hornby's High Fidelity.”—Booklist
“Tom’s irreverent voice and sharply observed, deeply funny insights about
public education and the teen social order carry the story.”—Publishers Weekly
“Portman has crafted a perceptive protagonist, whose brilliantly wry observations will keep readers laughing and whose voice is infused with an all-too-believable mix of innocence and cynicism.”—School Library Journal
“King Dork Approximately is a smart and sardonic sequel, a book for all ages."—Largeheartedboy.com
“Whether you're male or female, old or young, these two books will put into words feelings that you've always struggled first to express and then to repress."—Reason.com
“Sarcastic and funny, but it’s also super smart and insightful about the lives of teenagers.”—Bustle.com
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
While recovering from this horrific attack, Tom spends time with his bandmates, Sam Hellerman and Shinefield, composing horrid music (with abhorrent drumming) and assembling his case against the universe for his oppression and the (possible) murder of his father. Tom weathers the Y2K-Not-Meltdown, but big change is on the horizon for King Dork--Hillmont High, scene of his hazing and serial brutality at the hands of the normals, is closing.
Oh, and King Dork has other big news:
"I did it. With a girl.
And maybe you're thinking I'm just being cagey, and it will turn out that the "it" that was done, with the girl, by me, was something like baking cookies, or playing Monopoly, or fetching a pail of water from the old well up the hill. But I assure you, it means what people usually mean by "it.""
So! This adventure takes us through the vagaries of Tom's completely plain life, in a way that is spectacularly textured. Tom's agitated and verbose narration is a feat of ingenuity. The way he describes his school's use of alphabetically ordered seating, is well...
"The state, having determined that its interests would be best served by turning the lives of its citizens into a living nightmare at as early an age as possible, had entrusted the day-to-day soul-crushing process to the Santa Carla County School District. And the District found that its iron fist could most efficiently grind the aforementioned could into a fine, terrified, inert paste if the bodies they animated were clearly marked and organized in a rigid, alphabetically ordered grid, like books or socket sets, or fireworks."
Tom's home life is in more dire straights than normal: his apathetic mother is more so, and his sunshiney, platitude-spouting step-father Little Big Tom has moved out due to unknown causes, though his sister, Amanda is sure it's because of some panties in a gym bag--not that Tom gives Amanda's theory any credence.
In Tom's new school, he's not the King Dork. He's a Bone, trombone, that is, and part of the Pep Band, because, astoundingly, Clearview High has...pep.
"I had long ago given up trying to discern any hint of sarcasm, or mockery, or even mild irony in this sort of behavior at Clearview High School: there really wasn't any. These people, as crazy as it seems, really were this into it, and the "it" they were into, believe it or not, was simply high school. Damnedest thing I ever did see."
While engaging at Clearview, Tom finds himself a friend, Roberta, the Female Robert, and her best-ish pal, Pammelah, who inexplicably becomes Tom's girlfriend.
The story is basically about Tom coming to terms with life, finally fitting in (sorta), being ostracized yet again, and realizing that his take of the universe is subject to re-evaluation from time to time. He invests himself in his music, and finds a better path, as it were. Plus, he makes out a lot with Pammelah, which is pretty cool for a 15 y/o boy.
The side characters are rendered so caringly. Sad-sack Little Big Tom and his uber-paranoid friend Flapjack who make attempts to teach Tom to play guitar. Sam Hellerman, and his pill-popping, motivational tape listening ways pining for a girlfriend. Even Roberta the Female Robert (who later becomes the Female Robot in Tom's head) is fleshed out in girly-notes that are harrowing and hysterical at the same time.
I loved the voice, but sometimes I got lost in the long-winded sentence structure and had to re-read. Tom is an engaging narrator. And I mean that literally: he talks to the reader directly, all the time, which is a fun style for me. I dug the references about music and vinyl and Y2K and clunky cellphones, and I imagine other readers will as well, if not for nostalgia, simply because Tom makes it all so ludicrous and funny. Poor Sam, with his expensive phone and no one to call him becomes a running joke, and one I think tech-savvy teens today might find amusing. The whole awkwardness angle, and being a hopeless "dork" in the pre-anti-bullying timescape is mercilessly exploited what with the 'psychotic normals' always on the prowl. Tom's deadpan wit was so cutting, I'd nearly hurt myself laughing, at points. I really enjoyed the book, and expect teen readers will, too.
Fans of the Mr. T Experience will recognize the charm, wit, and sarcasm that fueled the mid 90s pop punk craze, cleverly wrapped in this charming tale of adolescence. Pop culture, literature, and rock n' roll references abound, and it's a joy to see it weaved in so well. Like listening to "Love is Dead" for the first time, you'll find yourself immersed in a world of teenage irreverence that is addicting and worth returning to again and again.