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  • King Dork
  • Written by Frank Portman
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On Sale: February 12, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-375-89070-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: April 11, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-7393-3114-9
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
EVENTS EVENTS
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

As John Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars said, “King Dork will rock your world.” The cult classic from Frank Portman, aka Dr. Frank of the Mr. T. Experience, is a book like nothing ever done before--King Dork literally has something for everyone: At least a half-dozen mysteries, love, mistaken identity, girls, monks, books, blood, bubblegum, and rock and roll. This book is based on music--a passion most kids have--and it has original (hilarious) songs and song lyrics throughout.
   When Tom Henderson finds his deceased father’s copy of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, his world is turned upside down. Suddenly high school gets more complicated: Tom (aka King Dork) is in the middle of at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, a secret code, girls, and rock and roll. As he goes through sophomore year, he finds clues that may very well solve the puzzle of his father’s death and—oddly—reveal the secret to attracting semi-hot girls (the secret might be being in a band, if he can find a drummer who can count to four.
   A brilliant story, King Dork includes a glossary and a bandography. And look for King Dork Approximtely, the sequel to King Dork, available in winter 2014.

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

“Loaded with sharp and offbeat humor.”—USA Today
 
[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
 
“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.”—Bookslut.com

Excerpt

August


KING DORK


They call me King Dork.

Well, let me put it another way: no one ever actually calls me King Dork. It's how I refer to myself in my head, a silent protest and an acknowledgment of reality at the same time. I don't command a nerd army, or preside over a realm of the socially ill-equipped. I'm small for my age, young for my grade, uncomfortable in most situations, nearsighted, skinny, awkward, and nervous. And no good at sports. So Dork is accurate. The King part is pure sarcasm, though: there's nothing special or ultimate about me. I'm generic. It's more like I'm one of the kings in a pack of crazy, backward playing cards, designed for a game where anyone who gets me automatically loses the hand. I mean, everything beats me, even twos and threes.

I suppose I fit the traditional mold of the brainy, freaky, oddball kid who reads too much, so bright that his genius is sometimes mistaken for just being retarded. I know a lot of trivia, and I often use words that sound made-up but that actually turn out to be in the dictionary, to everyone's surprise--but I can never quite manage to keep my shoes tied or figure out anything to say if someone addresses me directly. I play it up. It's all I've got going for me, and if a guy can manage to leave the impression that his awkwardness arises from some kind of deep or complicated soul, why not go for it? But, I admit, most of the time, I walk around here feeling like a total idiot.

Most people in the world outside my head know me as Moe, even though my real name is Tom. Moe isn't a normal nickname. It's more like an abbreviation, short for Chi-Mo. And even that's an abbreviation for something else.

Often, when people hear "Chi-Mo" they'll smile and say, "Hippie parents?" I never know what to say to that because yes, my folks are more hippie than not, but no, that's not where the name comes from.

Chi-Mo is derogatory, though you wouldn't necessarily know that unless you heard the story behind it. Yet even those who don't know the specific story can sense its dark origins, which is why it has held on for so long. They get a kick out of it without really knowing why. Maybe they notice me wincing when I hear them say it, but I don't know: there are all sorts of reasons I could be wincing. Life is a wince-a-thon.
There's a list of around thirty or forty supposedly insulting things that people have called me that I know about, past and present, and a lot of them are way worse than Moe. Some are classic and logical, like Hender-pig, Hender-fag, or Hender-fuck. Some are based on jokes or convoluted theories of offensiveness that are so retarded no one could ever hope to understand them. Like Sheepie. Figure that one out and you win a prize. As for Chi-Mo, it goes all the way back to the seventh grade, and it wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that this particular nickname ended up playing an unexpectedly prominent role in the weird stuff that happened toward the end of this school term. So, you know, I thought I'd mention it.

Mr. Teone, the associate principal for the ninth and tenth grades, always refers to Sam Hellerman as Peggy. I guess he's trying to imply that Sam Hellerman looks like a girl. Well, okay, so maybe Sam Hellerman does look a little like a girl in a certain way, but that's not the point.

In fact, Mr. Teone happens to have a huge rear end and pretty prominent man boobs, and looks way more like a lady than Sam Hellerman ever could unless he were to gain around two hundred pounds and start a course of hormone therapy. Clearly, he's trying to draw attention away from his own nontraditionally gendered form factor by focusing on the alleged femininity of another. Though why he decided to pick on Sam Hellerman as part of his personal battle against his own body image remains a mystery.

I'm just glad it's not me who gets called Peggy, because who needs it?


There's always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.

This year, it was an evil omen, like when druids observe an owl against the moon in the first hour of Samhain and conclude that a grim doom awaits the harvest. That kind of thing can set the tone for the rest of the year. What I'm getting at is, the first living creature Sam Hellerman and I encountered when we penetrated the school grounds on the first day of school was none other than Mr. Teone.

The sky seemed suddenly to darken.

We were walking past the faculty parking, and he was seated in his beat-up '93 Geo Prizm, struggling to force his supersized body through the open car door. We hurried past, but he noticed us just as he finally squeezed through. He stood by the car, panting heavily from the effort and trying to tuck his shirt into his pants so that it would stay in for longer than a few seconds.

"Good morning, Peggy," he said to Sam Hellerman. "So you decided to risk another year." He turned to me and bellowed: "Henderson!" Then he did this big theatrical salute and waddled away, laughing to himself.

He always calls me by my last name and he always salutes. Clearly, mocking me and Sam Hellerman is more important than the preservation of his own dignity. He seems to consider it to be part of his job. Which tells you just about everything you need to know about Hillmont High School society.

It could be worse. Mr. Donnelly, PE teacher and sadist supreme, along with his jabbering horde of young sports troglodytes-in-training, never bother with Moe or Peggy, and they don't salute. They prefer to say "pussy" and hit you on the ear with a cupped palm. According to an article called "Physical Interrogation Techniques" in one of my magazines (Today's Mercenary), this can cause damage to the eardrum and even death when applied accurately. But Mr. Donnelly and his minions are not in it for the accuracy. They operate on pure, mean-spirited, status-conscious instinct, which usually isn't very well thought out. Lucky for me they're so poorly trained, or I'd be in big trouble.

But there's no point fretting about what people call you. Enough ill will can turn anything into an attack. Even your own actual name.

"I think he's making fun of your army coat," said Sam Hellerman as we headed inside. Maybe that was it. I admit, I did look a little silly in the coat, especially since I hardly ever took it off, even in the hottest weather. I couldn't take it off, for reasons I'll get to in a bit.


From the Hardcover edition.
Frank Portman

About Frank Portman

Frank Portman - King Dork

Photo © Bobby Jordan

“Why did you decide to write a Young Adult Novel?”

That's usually the first question you get when someone learns you have written a book like King Dork. One way to respond is to say: "I've only written the one book. But I've read… several." Said in the right way, it can be pretty funny. You pause, make your eyes go a bit wry, yet serious, and slightly emphasize the word "several." See, "several" sounds like too few books to have read when you're going around saying you're an author. But of course, the questioner thinks, he could be kidding. Couldn't he? If things go according to plan, the next question will be: "What is your favorite book you've ever read?" You can answer with a question of your own: "you mean all the way through?" Then look a bit stumped. With any luck, the original question will have been forgotten by then, and you can go back to whatever you were doing.

But I'm going to break with my usual policy here and be perfectly honest: the reason for trying to wriggle out of that question by acting like an idiot is that I don't know the answer. It's not like I "decided" to write a YA novel. The way it happened was, I had misspent pretty much my entire life writing songs for my punk rock band. I had a cult following. One former cult member became a literary agent when he grew up (they do that sometimes - grow up, I mean) and he had the idea that the sort of characters, themes, and turns of phrase that pop up in my songs of arrested adolescent angst might make a pretty good book. I was skeptical but I said I'd give it a shot. I procrastinated for a long, long time. Then one day I started typing and, somehow, through a process I neither understand nor even really remember all that well, the stuff I was typing turned into a novel about a teenager. And, voilà, (if, voilà is the right word), I became a YA novelist. Actually, voilà is definitely not the right word, because it took almost two years in the end, and it was kind of hard. It was like watching grass grow while hitting your head against a rock.

To continue the unfamiliar technique of being perfectly honest, I'll admit something else: I have, in fact, read a lot more than several YA novels. Like many kids with no friends, I spent a whole lot of time reading. I mean, books were my friends, and I would commune with them in the hallowed halls of my Imagination. Not really - that was a kind of joke. But I had a lot of time on my hands, and what else are you going to do when there's nothing on TV? Like most people, I began flirting with the YA genre by reading the sexy books that I was supposed to be too young for, particularly the ones about girls (there weren't actually all that many sexy ones concerning boys) as a kind of research project for a potential future career as a Great Lover of Women. Most of what I imagined I learned about girls and human relationships from these books, admittedly, turned out to be almost wholly inaccurate, but never mind. Then, when I was the age you're supposed to be when you read teen lit, I tended to avoid it and read "adult books" and "classics" instead.

Then as an older teenager, I worked at the local public library. That job was, once again, like being a kid with no friends, in that I tended to have a lot of time on my hands. So, for something to do in the down time, I assigned myself a little project of reading every book in the Children's Fiction section, from beginning to end, in alphabetical order. I didn't love them all, but I loved a lot of them. (My favorites were darker, psychological studies like those of Robert Cormier, or ultra-wacky stuff like Ellen Raskin—but I gave everything a shot.) I continued to read YA books through my alleged adulthood. And now I read them not only for enjoyment and what I think they call "enrichment," but also out of professional interest, i.e., checking out the competition.

I have been too young, too old, then way too old, but in a lifetime of doing things I'm technically not supposed to do, few forbidden experiences have been as powerful, as inspiring, or as cool as this habit of always reading the wrong books. And now I'm writing them, too. Long live age-inappropriateness.
Praise

Praise

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.”—Bookslut.com
 
“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.”—Gawker.com
 
“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, TrouserPress.com
 
“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


From the Hardcover edition.
Frank Portman

Frank Portman Events>

Frank Portman - King Dork

Photo © Bobby Jordan

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