Tom Henderson is small, skinny and awkward, and pretty much feels like an idiot most of the time. But when he discovers his father's copy of "The Catcher in the Rye", it changes his world. It puts him in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, ...
Tom Henderson is small, skinny and awkward, and pretty much feels like an idiot most of the time. But when he discovers his father's copy of "The Catcher in the Rye", it changes his world. It puts him in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, guitars, monks, witchcraft and rock and roll. It's the tip of a very odd iceberg of clues that could help Tom unravel the puzzle of his father's death, and - bizarrely - reveal the secret of attracting semi-hot girls ..."King Dork" made a massive splash on first publication in the US and is already heralded as a cult classic, with a movie in the pipeline. It's a brilliantly original voice from a major new talent.
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My library had this book in the "young adult" section but changed it and put it in the adult section. I'm an adult without children, so I won't tell you whether or not your kids should read this. I will tell you however that the content is a little shocking. I don't think that teens themselves would be shocked at the content of girls giving oral sex to random relative strangers, prescription drug abuse, and of a high school pornography ring, but parents might.
The story centers on tenth grader Tom Henderson. He finds "clues" in the copy of Catcher in the Rye that his deceased father left boxed in the basement, and from these notes his high-school dad penciled in the margins Tom tries to find clues to the death of his adult police officer father. He tries to get to know his father by reading the books he did, and deciphering the clues. What Tom ends up learning is that his dad was much like he is.
The plot is secondary to the real value of the book, which is in skewering The Catcher in the Rye and giving us a peek into what high schools are like today. Tom is a high school nobody...he has one friend (Sam Hellerman) that he acquired by being placed with him alphabetically for years, he gets picked on and beaten up, as much at the mercy of the teachers as he is to the other students. Not to mention the trouble at home in dealing with a depressed mom and a hippie step-father.
The amazing thing is how lovable Tom is. He is smart and witty. He shows us how ridiculous the high school curriculum is, and how high school is basically a four year long gauntlet that kids are lucky to survive, especially if they're unique and not part of the cool kids clique.
Tom and Sam have a band, whose name changes every few weeks regularly. They aren't very good at all, and at a talent show in school they end up inadvertently blowing open a school sex scandal, which is almost the death of Tom.
I highly recommend this book; it gives a true impression of what high school life is today, and it's also very, very funny while also being quite touching.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-05-08 This witty, biting and wholly memorable debut novel by punk singer/musician Portman (the Mr. T. Experience or MTX) was born to be an audiobook. Hoppe nails the brainy, cynical yet likable tone of teen narrator and aspiring songwriter/band god Tom Henderson. And Portman gets to strike some creative chords by performing five original acoustic songs penned by Tom (and mentioned throughout the narrative) to close the recording. But Tom's music obsession aside, it's his sharp and often hilarious observations about the cruelty and inanity that pervade his daily life at Hillmont High that will have listeners entranced. In between fantasizing about semi-hot girls and dreaming up ideas for the band with his friend Sam, taking ridiculously easy AP classes in French and social studies/humanities, and dodging bullies and mean teachers, Tom starts to investigate the circumstances behind his detective father's mysterious death. A funny thing: all roads-in school and outside of it-seem to lead to that 1950s novel that elicits a cult-like worship among academic and hipster types, The Catcher in the Rye. A secret code written in his late father's copy of the Salinger classic only complicates matters on every level, but listeners will want to stick around for the conclusion, especially to hear Tom's glossary-replete with mispronunciations mocking his teacher, and a bonus interview with the author. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2006-03-13 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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