King Dork Approximately

May 8, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads) ()

dorkKing Dork Approximately by Frank Portman


I read and enjoyed King Dork, but had no idea that Portman had written a sequel. My interest in the book was secondary to my nostalgia for The Mr. T Experience, but I found an engaging, if odd, story that surprised me. I’m just cynical enough to think that an old punk rocker writing a novel is an attempt to cash in on said nostalgia, but it was a decent book.

The book follows shortly after the events of King Dork, picking up with Tom Henderson after he’s recovered from his near-fatal tuba injury (no kidding), and trying to cope with returning to the hellhole of his old high school. The thing is, due to what happened in King Dork, the school is being shut down, and he’s being shunted to Clearview High, away from his best friend Sam Hellerman, and dropped into an altogether new school where he has to relearn how to navigate the cliques and other normals.

This book is one of those oddities, where nothing much happens, but you can’t quite bring yourself to stop reading it. It seems to follow the same general plot of King Dork, just without the conspiracy revolving around Tom’s father’s death. Tom deals with high school, navigating girls and parents and teachers and all the rest, which culminates in a fight and a concert that goes poorly. It’s not a retelling of the first book, but it’s awfully familiar, but without that connection to his father’s death, Tom’s story isn’t really a story. I mean, does it make sense to have two coming-of-age stories back-to-back, involving the same character?

I was disappointed in how Portman portrayed the female characters in the story, though I expect it’s not too far off from how fifteen-year-olds think about girls. Lord knows, I was a different person at fifteen than I am now at forty-four, but by fifteen, kids should at least start thinking about their classmates as something other than someone to ramone with. As such, it’s not the sort of book I would give to a teenager, even though it’s marketed as a YA book.

Portman is a decent writer, though he overuses bits of his narrative. He has a tendency to write about some particular thing in one sentence, and then refer to that s. p. t. by its initials shortly thereafter. It slows down the narrative, forcing you to go back and remember what those initials are supposed to be. There are also the bits where he uses a word, following it immediately with “if [that word] means what I think it means.” It was cute the first few times Portman used it (and appropriate, considering it’s supposedly written by a fifteen-year-old with confidence issues), tiresome through the middle portion of the story, and then by the end of it, Tom started becoming aware of how much he was overusing it and making fun of it. Again, it slowed down the narrative due to its overuse.

I liked how much Portman used music as a large factor in the story, and how he even included a list of albums referenced in the book. It was also fun to see that he had recorded a soundtrack to the book, using songs and lyrics he had incorporated into the story to make real songs. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to MTX, but it took me back to listen to some new tunes by the band.

So, the book is readable, if not necessarily engaging, despite some unfortunate character choices. It’s not necessarily inappropriate, but it has enough adult content and poor portrayals of women that I would recommend parents read the book themselves before passing it on to their kids. Anyone mature enough to recognize the problems would be fine with it, but I would hesitate giving it to someone who might read it and think it’s an endorsement for that kind of thing.



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