Dork in Disguise

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Last year, Jerry Flack was a dork. So this year, at a new school in a new town, he's decided to start a new life altogether—as a Cool Kid. He's been preparing all summer: studying teen magazines, acquiring hair gel, and distressing his jeans. Things get off to a good start, and before you know it, Jerry's in, Rollerblading with the pros. But soon, Jerry finds himself tangled up in a complicated web of lies; and what's more, he's battling a terrible urge to put his glasses back on, join the science team, build a ...

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Last year, Jerry Flack was a dork. So this year, at a new school in a new town, he's decided to start a new life altogether—as a Cool Kid. He's been preparing all summer: studying teen magazines, acquiring hair gel, and distressing his jeans. Things get off to a good start, and before you know it, Jerry's in, Rollerblading with the pros. But soon, Jerry finds himself tangled up in a complicated web of lies; and what's more, he's battling a terrible urge to put his glasses back on, join the science team, build a hovercraft, and, worst of all, date Brenda, a 100% geek. Does he really want to be a dork in disguise forever?

Starting middle school in a new town, brainy Jerry Flack changes his image from "dork" to "cool kid," only to discover that he'd rather be himself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gorman (The Marvelous Makeover of Lizard Flanagan) retreads Polonius's well-worn exhortation in this familiar tale of a sixth-grader who wants to be "cool." When his family moves, science-loving Jerry resolves to shed his "dork" image. Hence he starts at his new school in a blur, because he leaves his uncool glasses at home. However, his vision isn't so fuzzy that he can't see and fall hard for gorgeous airhead Cinnamon, who, in turn, is impressed by the handsome and equally vacuous Gabe. What's a dork to do? Under the unlikely tutelage of classmate Brenda (who tells Jerry that it takes a dork to know one), he learns to rip his new jeans fashionably and to strut, and with his new look and the self-promoting lies he spins, he's in like Flynn. The only problem is that Jerry finds that he's happier with Brenda and the other science club members than with Cinnamon's vapid crowd. It doesn't take much to figure out which group Jerry will ultimately decide to stick with. The story is essentially amiable, but even though Gorman has one of the "cool" boys furtively express an interest in science, the portrayal of good-looking kids as shallow ignoramuses and intellectuals as unattractive misfits perpetuates stereotypes. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Jerry Flack is really smart-smart enough to have been labeled dork, geek, and nerd throughout his school career. When his family moves to a new town, he sees the possibilities for a major lifestyle change. Hiding his glasses in his backpack and his academic abilities behind ripped jeans and a cool-guy strut which he perfects in the mirror at home, Jerry manages to insinuate himself into the coolest group in the sixth grade. He is puzzled and disappointed when life isn't as exciting as he expected, and he is unsure how to respond when he's invited to join the science team, based on his outstanding record from his previous school. Jerry loves science he is even building a working hovercraft at home, but competing on the team is definitely uncool. On the other hand, the science-team kids are more interesting to be around. It's a tough choice, but in the end Jerry decides that being himself is a lot more fun than being cool. Dork in Disguise is similar in setting, mood, and message to Gorman's The Miraculous Makeover of Lizard Flanagan HarperCollins, 1994, about a sixth-grade girl trying to reconcile her identity as a jock with the social expectations that come along with entering middle school. As with that title, many readers will enjoy and identify with this humorous story.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A book that celebrates the many notches of cool; although the territory isn't new, Gorman (Jennifer-the-Jerk is Missing, 1994, etc.) makes sure readers enjoy this lesson in what makes a dork tick. Jerry Flack is a dork, and he knows it; he exhibits all the prime characteristics, from wearing glasses to loving science and getting good grades. When he moves to a new neighborhood, Jerry decides on the lofty goal of becoming cool, but Brenda, for one, sees through his disguise instantly, and offers to give him lessons. He tears his jeans just right, struts just like Gabe and Tony, and gains the attention of the lovely Cinnamon. Cool comes at a price, of course; Jerry has to tell lies frequently, and ignore the fact that Cinnamon is an airhead. The sacrifice he can't bring himself to make is turning down the chance to be on the science team. It will be no surprise to readers that Jerry is smart enough to realize that his real friend is Brenda, and it's predictable that the cool kids come over to his side—because this is fiction, and such things happen in books. A funny tale, with a truly in-your-face cover illustration, meant to snag those who care about cool and those who pretend they don't. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780606200493
  • Publisher: Demco Media
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Format: Library Binding

Meet the Author

Carol Gorman is the author of many books for young readers, including Dork In Disguise, Dork on the Run, and A Midsummer Night's Dork. Ms. Gorman lives with her husband, writer Ed Gorman, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she also teaches at Coe College.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"You can let me out here," Jerry Flack said to his mother.

It was the first day of school, and the oatmeal Jerry had eaten for breakfast lay like a brick in his stomach.

"But your school is still three blocks away," his mother said. She slowed the car to avoid hitting a squirrel that darted across the road.

"That's okay," Jerry said. "I'll walk to school starting tomorrow. I measured the distance on my bike odometer, and it's only seven-tenths of a mile. At a rate of three and a half miles an hour, I should be able to get to school in . . ." He paused, staring up at the sun visor, and figured it out. "In about twelve minutes."

Then he realized he was doing it again-figuring math problems in his head. Something only a dork would do. It was a good thing there wasn't anyone around.After all, this was the first day at a new school, in a new town, and Jerry was turning over a new leaf. This was the first day of the rest of his life.

He had a plan all worked out. He was going to stop being a brain, a dork. He would start Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School disguised as a Cool Guy.He'd used styling gel on his hair this morning before he blew his hair dry. The gel had worked its magic. His hair didn't stick out the way it usually did. And it was "full of body," just as the label had promised.

But Jerry knew that being cool wasn't just about hair. It was more, so much more. He had studied the subject for several months now, ever since his parents had said they were moving to Spencer Lake. He had pored for hours over magazines like Teen Scene and Ultimate Cool and gossip magazines like Guess Who? and Dishin' Dirt. He had watched endless hours of musicvideos on TV and had lurked in plenty of teen chat rooms on the Web, trying to get a feel for how cool kids talked to one another.

But the subject of cool was broad and deep, and Jerry wondered whether he knew enough for his disguise to work. How things went today would tell him a lot about whether he had prepared himself sufficiently.

"Just pull up at the corner," Jerry said.

His mother stopped the car. "Remember to go straight home after school and stay with Melissa. I'll be back after my four o'clock class."

"Okay," Jerry said.

"Have a good day, kiddo."

"Thanks." Jerry was glad no one heard his mother call him "kiddo," and he made a mental note never to let his mother near other kids. Cool Guys don't have mothers who call them cute names.

He got out of the car. "Bye, Mom." He shut the door and watched her drive away.When she was safely out of view, he took off his glasses and poked them into his backpack. The world around him looked a little blurry. He could see fuzzy cars sweep past, a couple of cloudy kids on bikes, and a smeary dog barking in the next yard. That was okay. He could get used to it. Cool Guys didn't wear glasses.

He strolled along the sidewalk for the next three blocks. It was a good thing there had been a sale on T-shirts that weekend. He'd left his "World's Best Grandson" shirt in his closet (and planned to throw it in the garbage sometime soon when his mother wasn't looking) and put on his new Vikings shirt. He didn't know very much about the Vikings, except that they were a football team in Minnesota. That was a subject he planned on looking into when he had more time. Cool Guys knew about sports.

The grounds around the school were crowded. He stopped next to an oak tree and leaned against it. He didn't think a Cool Guy would walk right up to strangers and start a conversation. It would be better to hang back a bit to get a feel for the place.

A couple of guys chased each other around the flagpole, laughing. Definitely not cool, Jerry thought.

To his right, three girls-all blond-stood together, flipping their long hair over their shoulders.

"What a summer I had," said Blonde Number One. "The best summer of my life."

"All because of Adam," Blonde Number Two said knowingly.

Blonde Number Three nodded sadly. "I can't believe his family has to move," she said. "Will you keep in touch with him?"

"We promised to e-mail every single day," Blonde Number One said.

Blondes Number Two and Three sighed. "That's so romantic," Three said.

These girls were unquestionably cool, Jerry thought, but too old for him. They were very tall, probably eighth graders.

A guy came rollerblading past, followed by another guy on skates. They looked like they'd been skating all their lives, the way they threaded their way around the kids who stood like plastic coneson an obstacle course. The kid skating in front wore a red Adidas shirt. He ran both hands through his thick, wavy hair as he glided past. Jerry stared at him. The guy oozed cool from every pore.

The kids in the crowd all turned to look at them.

"Those guys are from Frost Elementary," Jerry heard one girl whisper to her friend. "The hunk in front is Gabe Marshall."

"He's gorgeous," said the friend, who was tall and good-looking herself. "You suppose I could go with a sixth grader?"

"No way," the first girl said. "Seventh-grade girls don't go with sixth-grade guys. In fact, they hardly look at them."

Out of the corner of Jerry's eye, a blurry figure appeared and a scent of spicy perfume wafted past his nose. He turned to look and gulped. She was the most beautiful girl he had seen in his entire life. Flowing, dark red hair tumbled down the middle of her back. She had a small, heart-shaped face and a button nose, and like the others, she was watching Gabe and his friend, who were still rollerblading in big figure eights through the crowd.

"He's my goal for this year," the beautiful girl said. "The one in front. He's so cool."

"If anyone can get him, it's you, Cinnamon," her friend said.

"Think so?" Cinnamon smiled, still staring at Gabe.

"Let's play our game," the friend said eagerly. "What would you give up for him?"

Cinnamon giggled. "Uh-I'd give up a semester of TV."


"How about you?" Cinnamon asked.

"Hmm. I'd give up pizza for a month."

"Only a month?" Cinnamon asked.

"Hey, he's really cool," her friend said, "but pizza's my favorite food."

Cinnamon laughed, and they strolled on past.

A voice right next to Jerry startled him. "Why don't you put on your glasses?"

He turned to see a girl staring at him.

"Hunh?" he said. "What do you mean? What glasses?"

"The ones you were wearing this morning," she said.

"How did you know?"

"You're squinting," she explained. "And you have little dents on either side of your nose. You took off your glasses less than an hour ago. Maybe a half hour."

Jerry was impressed. He looked at her more closely. She was average height with brown hair that turned under just above her shoulders. A pair of red glasses perched on her nose.

"I don't like wearing glasses," he said.

"Tell me about it," she said. "They're uncomfortable, they fall down your nose if they don't fit right, and they make you look like a dork." She gazed at him curiously. "Trying to change your image?"

Jerry was astounded. Could this girl read his mind?

"What did you say your name was?" she asked.

"I didn't," Jerry said. "But it's Jerry Flack."

The girl put out her hand. "Brenda McAdams."

Jerry shook her hand, hoping no one was watching. He was pretty sure that Cool Guys didn't shake hands with girls. He'd only been on the school grounds for a few minutes, and already he was doing something dorky.

"Nice to meet you, Jerry," she said. "You new in town?"

"Yeah," Jerry said.

"That's what I figured, that you're starting out fresh in Spencer Lake with a new image. Are your parents with the university?"

Jerry glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was listening. He didn't want people overhearing what she said, because she was so right about him. No one seemed to be paying attention, though.


"You're in sixth grade?" Brenda asked.

"Yeah. You too?"

"Yes indeedy," Brenda said. She seemed to study him closely. "Well, Jerry, if you want to change your image, there are still some things you'll need to do."Jerry rolled his eyes. He didn't need a girl telling him how to be cool. Especially this girl, who clearly wasn't cool herself. Nobody cool says "yes indeedy."

"I'm doing okay," Jerry said, turning to go.

"I saw you watching Cinnamon O'Brien," Brenda said, stopping Jerry in his tracks.

"Do you know her?" he asked, turning back to her.

Brenda nodded. "She was in my class at Hemingway Elementary. You hear her talking about that kid on rollerblades? Isn't it interesting how the good-looking kids all gravitate to each other in the first few minutes of the school year? Even though they come from at least five different elementary schools, I bet by the end of the day all the 'beautiful people' will be best friends."

"So . . . what's she like?" Jerry asked.

"Cinnamon? Dumb."

"What else?"

Brenda laughed. "I tell you she's an airhead, and you want to know more?"

"There are worse things than being . . . less than a genius."

Brenda smiled. "Like being uncool?"

Jerry decided to ignore that. "Are you and Cinnamon friends?"

"Depends what you mean by 'friends.' I don't hang out with her, but I don't hate her or anything. You want to meet her? I'll introduce you."

Jerry's heart began to race. "Uh, yeah. But not right now."

"Why not?"

"I'm . . . not ready."

Brenda stood back and looked at him critically. "Yes, you could use some coaching."

Jerry scowled. "Hey, leave me alone, will you? I don't need your help."

Brenda shrugged. "Whatever you say. Just thought I could be of assistance."She walked away as the bell rang.

Jerry was shaken. This girl had seen through him right away. He wondered if there were other kids who would know immediately that his Cool Guy image was a disguise.He'd have to study the fine points of coolness, Jerry thought. Maybe he'd missed a few important details.

Jerry watched the blurry mass of strangers around him and thought about what his life had been like at his old school. He'd been a dork with only a couple of close friends, and they also scored pretty high on the Dorkometer. But this is a new year, Jerry thought. If he could learn all the finer points of coolness, maybe he could get Cinnamon to notice him.Maybe she'd even speak to him sometime. Not just "Sorry," or "Excuse me," for bumping into him in a crowded hall-although Jerry thought bumping into Cinnamon would be extremely pleasant.

Jerry was thinking how wonderful it would be if she'd look him in the eyes, smile, and say "Hi."

It would even be cooler if she said his name along with the "Hi."

"Hi, Jerry."

That would be unbelievably cool.

He reached the school door. This is it, he thought. His first day. He'd have to be more careful so other kids wouldn't see through his disguise.He could do it, he reassured himself. He'd just have to be on guard every moment.

Dork in Disguise. Copyright © by Carol Gorman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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