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King Dork


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About the Author

Frank Portman (aka Dr. Frank) is also the author of Andromeda Klein and the singer/songwriter/guitarist of the influential East Bay punk band the Mr. T. Experience (MTX). MTX has released about a dozen albums since forming in the mid-1980s. Frank lives in Oakland, California. Visit him online at, look for him on Facebook, and follow @frankportman on Twitter.


Told from the perspective of Tom, a "brainy, freaky, oddball kid who reads too much, [and is] so bright that his genius is sometimes mistaken for just being retarded," this debut novel expresses a cynical view of high-school life and a teen's passion for rock music. Much of the story focuses on a seemingly endless string of humiliations and tortures dished out by Tom's teachers and sadistic "psychotic normal" classmates. A more compelling and subtly drawn subplot details mysteries that Tom is trying to solve: Was his father's death a few years earlier really an accident? What is the meaning of the coded messages found in his father's copy of The Catcher in the Rye? (The key role of Salinger's novel is hinted at by this book's telltale vintage burgundy cover, on which "King Dork" is written over Salinger's title.) When he's not playing Sherlock Holmes or dodging bullies (the types who "try to trip you anonymously and knock you over as you go by in the hallway"), Tom daydreams about the band he plans to form with his only friend Sam. Budding rock musicians and students with a grudge against the public-high-school scene will most relate to Tom's narrative. If the protagonist's battle with peers and a tyrannical associate principal grows a little tedious at times, the author's biting humor and skillful connection of events will keep pages turning. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Gr 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 2006 Reed Business Information.

Praise for King Dork:

"Basically, if you are a human being with even a vague grasp of the English language, King Dork, will rock your world."--John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

"[No account of high school] has made me laugh more than King Dork. . . . Grade A."--Entertainment Weekly

"Impossibly brilliant."--Time

"Provides a window into what it would be like if Holden Caulfield read The Catcher in the Rye."--New York Post

[STAR] "Original, heartfelt, and sparkling with wit and intelligence. This novel will linger long in readers' memories."--School Library Journal, Starred

[STAR] "A biting and witty high-school satire."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred

[STAR] "Tom's narration is piercingly satirical and acidly witty."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred

"Loaded with sharp and offbeat humor."--USA Today

"King Dork is smart, funny, occasionally raunchy and refreshingly clear about what it's like to be in high school."--San Francisco Chronicle

"King Dork Best Punk Rock Book Ever."--The Village Voice

"I love this book as much as I hated high school, and that's some of the highest praise I can possibly give."

"Just the thing for those snarky teens."--People

"King Dork is smart, funny, occasionally raunchy and refreshingly clear about what it's like to be in high school."--San Francisco Chronicle

"This is the funniest, freshest, most original book of any kind that I have read in a very long time. It's so damn good that I'm just happy there are people like Frank Portman writing books. Period." --Megan McCafferty, author of Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds

"Frank Portman . . . proves to be a born storyteller in this hilarious coming-of-age novel."--Chicago Sun-Times

"The author's biting humor and skillful connection of events will keep pages turning."--Publishers Weekly

"Inventive and sexy, [King Dork is] fun to read and provides endless food for thought--everything I want from a book." --Melvin Burgess, author of Doing It and Smack

"Portman . . . scores with a debut novel that's funny, sharp, and spot-on at portraying a teen who sees musical stardom as more attainable than scoring with a girl."--Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"A modern and arguably better (yes, I said it) version of the J. D. Salinger staple."--American Way

"King Dork is unique: a detective-story ode to hormones, teenage bands, and the books they made you read in high school. Hilarious, unflinching, and surprising from start to finish." --Ned Vizzini, author of It's Kind of a Funny Story

"The MySpace generation's Catcher in the Rye."

"The ironically self-crowned dork narrator is a terrific guide through the scary world of high school."--E! Online

"Channeling the wisdom of a cynical rock sophisticate through the voice of a self-conscious fourteen-year-old misfit, Frank Portman has created a winning post-punk Hardy Boy equal."-Ira Robbins,

"A funny, pointed poke in the eye to the bloated Catcher in the Rye cult, and also a fine alienated teen novel in its own right."--Neal Pollack, author of Never Mind the Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel

"A funny, intelligent, inspiring, can't-even-put-it-down-when-I-go-to-the-bathroom story. Seriously, I vowed to only write about this well-publicized book after I read it myself, and I'm happy to report that it's worth the hype."--Whitney Matheson in USA Today's Pop Candy

"This pitch-perfect mixture of Veronica Mars and Freaks and Geeks exudes realistic, self-aware teen angst on every page, and should be a permanent addition to libraries alongside Brighton Rock, A Separate Peace . . . and even Catcher."--The Oregonian

"The magic of King Dork lies in its cutting satire and narrative voice. It smartly skewers just about every aspect of the educational system. For readers who have suffered through a pep rally, detention or English class, Portman's arrival is cause for regal glee."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Frank Portman takes on the high-school coming-of-age story with enough music what-for to satisfy the most ardent of music snobs. He also cuts to pieces Catcher in the Rye, a job you might not have known needed to be done."--SF Weekly

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