King Dork by Frank Portman | Book Review

King Dork book cover

Tom Henderson, also known as King Dork, also known as Chi-Mo, is a nerdy sophomore trying as best as he can to survive high school. When he discovers an array of his late father’s books which feature an unusual code, he finds himself trying to get to the bottom of a bunch of intertwining conspiracy theories and mysteries, all while playing in a rock band with fellow dork and nosebleed aficionado Sam Hellerman.

I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book. On the one hand it’s funny and smart and entertaining, and on the other it just goes on and on and on. It’s structured around a series of tiny things that happen, with only some of them really being relevant to the main plot. But also, there kind of isn’t a main plot. It’s just a kid trying to figure himself out when it comes to schoolyard politics, friendships, sex, and his weirdo family.

The disjointed nature of the plot made this the kind of book that I could handle only for short bursts at a time. I enjoyed it – it made me laugh out loud many a time – but it didn’t give me the kind of complete and utter escapism that I crave when I read. Perhaps if I had once upon a time been an American teenage boy I could have found myself relating to King Dork much more strongly, which might have made me more absorbed in the tale. However, I think a lot of the jokes and pop culture references went over my head which impacted my appreciation for the novel.

So it’s a mixed review for King Dork from me, but if you love a classic high school coming-of-age story, it’s probably worth a read.

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