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.
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.
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