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Dork in Disguise

Dork in Disguise

4.3 12
by Carol Gorman

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At his new school, Jerry Flack is determined to stop being a dork and start being a cool guy—but does this science nerd really have what it takes to be popular? 

Jerry Flack is starting middle school in a new town where no one knows him and he can be anybody he wants. Jerry has a plan: He is finally going to be cool. But that turns out to be


At his new school, Jerry Flack is determined to stop being a dork and start being a cool guy—but does this science nerd really have what it takes to be popular? 

Jerry Flack is starting middle school in a new town where no one knows him and he can be anybody he wants. Jerry has a plan: He is finally going to be cool. But that turns out to be easier said than done. As his lies begin to pile up, Jerry knows he’s going to slip up soon, and everyone will see him for who he really is.

Can Jerry keep the act going? Or is it possible that a dork can actually be . . . well, cool?

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)

Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Publication date:
Dork , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
510 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dork in Disguise

By Carol Gorman


Copyright © 1999 Carol Gorman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-9070-5


"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. 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 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 gel label had promised.

But Jerry knew that being cool wasn't just about having great 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 recent issues of magazines like Teen Scene and Ultimate Cool and gossip magazines like Guess Who? and Dishin' Dirt. He had watched endless hours of music videos 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 if he knew enough to pull off his disguise. How things went today would tell him a lot about whether he had sufficiently prepared himself.

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

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


"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 tee 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 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 blonde—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 text at least fifteen times a 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 and 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 in and around the kids who stood like plastic cones on 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 hottie in front is Gabe Marshall."

"He's gorgeous," the friend said, 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."

From the corner of Jerry's eye, a blurry figure appeared and a scent of spicy perfume wafted past his nose. Jerry 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 friends 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.

"Hmmm. 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 said. "And you have those 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 smiled and gazed at him in a familiar way, as if she knew him. She raised her hand and adjusted the glasses that perched on her nose.

"I don't like wearing glasses," he told her.

"Yeah, tell me about it," she said. "They're hot, they fall down your nose if they don't fit right, and they make you look like a dork." Something shifted in her gaze. "Trying to change your image?"

Jerry was astounded. Could this girl read his mind?

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

"Well, 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.

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 another 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 can arrange it."

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

"Why not?"

"Well. 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.

I'll have to study the fine points of coolness, Jerry thought. Maybe I've 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. The idea of having the prettiest girl in school notice him was unthinkable.

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.

It made Jerry shiver with excitement just to think about it.

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.


Jerry walked down the corridor on the ground floor and squinted up at the room numbers as he passed. The registration materials that had come in the mail to his house said that Jerry's homeroom was in room 112 with Mrs. Barnaby.

He found the classroom and walked in. The seats were nearly all taken, but Jerry found a desk near the back. The teacher leaned against her desk and chatted with some girls in the front seats.

"Okay, folks," the woman said after the bell rang. "This is homeroom, and I'm Mrs. Barnaby. Are you all in the right place?" No one said they weren't, so she continued. "Let's see who's here."

She took roll, then handed everyone their class schedules and locker assignments. "You'll each have a locker partner," she said. "Now, if you'll follow me, we'll go to our locker area down the hall, and you can practice opening your lockers. If you have any trouble, ask me for help. If not, come on back here when you're finished and wait for the others."

Mrs. Barnaby led everyone down the hall. Jerry's was the locker on the very end.

A blond kid stood there, turning the combination lock.

"Hi," Jerry said. "You got locker 100, too?"

The kid looked at him. "Yeah. I guess we're sharing it." He opened the door. Inside were two shelves and two coat hooks.

"You want the top shelf or bottom?" Jerry asked.

The kid shrugged and leaned against the wall next to the locker. "I don't care."

Jerry realized that a Cool Guy wouldn't care which shelf he had. "Me, either," he said.

"Well, we got it open. Mission accomplished." The kid stared at him with clear, blue eyes. "So you got a name?"

"Jerry." Jerry had a feeling it might be cooler just to give his first name. That's the way it went in some cool teen horror movies he'd rented this summer.

"I'm Craig."

"So, you want to go back?" Jerry asked.

"What I want is to liven up this party, man," Craig said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I want to stir things up. See some action." Craig smirked. "Follow me."

Jerry's instincts told him to stay put. But he knew if he did that, he'd blow his cover. Craig would think he was a dork.

So Jerry followed him, and to his surprise, Craig walked back to their homeroom. They were the first people to return; the room was empty.

"Come on," Craig said. "We've got to work fast."

"What are we doing?"

Craig picked up a desk and turned it upside down. "Turn over the furniture. Hurry, before somebody comes."

Jerry stared at him. Was he kidding?

Jerry wished he could just turn around and leave. But how could he risk looking like a nerd? He figured he'd better play along. He shrugged, picked up the nearest desk and set down on its side.

Craig kicked over the waste basket and turned over Mrs. Barnaby's chair. He picked up papers on her desk and tore them in half and threw them on the floor. Then he wrote with chalk on the board: The Fantom Tornado Strikes!

Jerry opened his mouth to tell Craig he'd misspelled Phantom then realized that a Cool Guy might not care how to spell it. He closed his mouth again.

In a half-minute, the room was a disaster. Jerry began to sweat as he took in the damage. Half the desks were toppled over, and everything that had been piled on them was scattered on the floor. A mug full of pencils from Mrs. Barnaby's desk and all the erasers from the blackboards had been tossed around the room. Wood shavings from the pencil sharpener were thrown across the floor like confetti.

"One last thing," Craig said. To Jerry's amazement, he opened Mrs. Barnaby's desk drawer and pulled out a box of tacks. He turned it over, and the tacks rained down on Mrs. Barnaby's desk, overturned chair and the floor.

Jerry wished he had done anything other than come back with this maniac. Turning over a chair or two was one thing, but this was vandalism, plain and simple.

Craig ran back to the middle of the room just as the first four students returned.

"Gee, what happened?" said a pony-tailed girl, stopping in the doorway.

"Wow!" her friend said. The other two kids surveyed the damage with their mouths open.

Jerry's locker partner plastered an innocent look on his face. "It was like this when we walked in. Right?" He looked at Jerry.

"Uh, yeah," Jerry said. He could feel the heat rising in his face. He knew that turning red would give himself away, but he couldn't stop it.

Jerry picked up his own desk and set it upright. Then he sat down.

"Look at the board," the pony-tailed girl said.

Her friend made a face. "What an idiot. He couldn't even spell phantom right."

"I'm getting Mrs. Barnaby," the pony-tailed girl said. She disappeared into the hall.

Craig shot Jerry a grin. Jerry didn't try to smile back.

Within a minute, Mrs. Barnaby stopped in the doorway, gawking. "Who did this?" she demanded.

"The room was like this when we got back from opening our lockers," Craig said.

"What's your name?" she asked him, walking into the room.

"Craig Fladky," he said. "I was with my locker partner." He pointed at Jerry.

"And you are—?"

Jerry had to clear his throat before his voice would work. "Jerry Flack."

Mrs. Barnaby sent a girl to get the assistant principal. "This is outrageous," she said. "Everybody pick up your desks."

The bell rang, and Mrs. Barnaby said, "You all must go to your first period class now. Craig and Jerry, Mr. Meyer may send for you later." Jerry wondered if she knew the truth.

Jerry got up and moved with the rest of the kids into the hall. He hurried away, hoping to avoid Craig, and climbed the stairs to his first period language arts class.

Knowing he'd need to sit fairly close to see the blackboard, he picked the second seat in the middle row.

Still shaken by the room-tossing downstairs, he kept half an eye on the door, hoping that Craig wouldn't be in this class.

One by one the students came in and sat down. Jerry began to relax when the room was nearly full, and Craig hadn't come in. His stomach executed a cartwheel, though, when Cinnamon O'Brien arrived. She took a seat in the back and began whispering to a girl who sat next to her. Gabe Marshall walked in, and Jerry heard giggles from the girls in the back.

Brenda McAdams was the last student to arrive. She plopped down in the last empty seat, right in front of Jerry.

"Hi, Flack," she said.


It was good to see Brenda. After the episode with Craig, Jerry was relieved to talk to someone who wasn't interested in making trouble.


Excerpted from Dork in Disguise by Carol Gorman. Copyright © 1999 Carol Gorman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Carol Gorman, author of over thirty novels for young readers, is the recipient of five state children’s choice book awards, as well as many other honors given by teachers and librarians. Her books have been published in five foreign countries. A former middle school, high school, and college creative writing instructor, she travels around the country, speaking about her books and teaching writing workshops. She lives in Iowa with her husband, mystery writer Ed Gorman. Visit her at www.carolgorman.com.

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Dork in Disguise 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dork in Disguise is a funny book. I think that the characters are good for the book because each character is humorous, mean, and mysterious at times. The book has a lot of action in it. I recommend this book to readers of all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jerry, a dork, comes to a new school and tries to shred his lame, dorky image to impress Cinnamon. Cinnamon is the empty-headed, popular girl in school. But, he won't have a chance without the 100% geek, Brenda's, 'cool lessons'. Jerry learns how to walk the walk and talk the talk. But, in the end, Jerry realizes he'd rather be with Brenda than Cinnamon. I would recommend this great book to anyone who's interested in funny books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dork in disguise was a good book and I enjoyed it a lot. If you are looking to be cool, you might want to read this book and take some lessons from Jerry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dork in Disguise was an awesome book! It shows you a kid that wanted to be popular so bad that he would do anything for it. Sometimes though...it's better to be yourself then to be what everyone else wants to see.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
haleymcp More than 1 year ago
It's a fresh year in middle school, the first year. Jerry Flak sick of being a nerd so he gives it up and tries something new. He wants to be the cool guy in this new school. He is determined to get the pretty girl at school, Cinnamon. His friend Brenda Mcadams helps him prepare to be one of the cool kids on campus. He gets trapped in a bunch of lies. Later on he finds out who his real friends are and has a blast! To see what all Jerry does, you have to read the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best by far my favorite book ever. it is always keeping you on the edge of your seat only if it was longer and there where more than just this and its sequal. It would be great if it was a never ending chain of sequals and they would come out closer to each other but I would reccomend this book TO ANY age its soooo good and enjoy reading i know i did it sucked me in and made me read it in one day it was so goodits 16 chapter of hilarious fun!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. It kept you on the edge of your seat! And it had such detail. You could just picture it in your head! I totaly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in about two days! It was so funny that I just couldn't put it down. I think that Dork in Disguise is a great choice for any aged reader. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is very good book if I said so myself. This book teach you a very special lesson to the people that need the way to understand the young children like in 6th grade. It help the adult understand what the children go through at school. We could understand eache other if we know.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dork in Disguise by Carol Gorman, was a totally entertaining book. Jerry Flack, a total geek in his previous school years, has one chance to make all of it up in his new school. All he wants is for the popular girl, Cinnamon, to notice him. With his total geek friend, Brenda McAdam's, help he could get rid of his dorky image. He's rollerblading with all of the cool kids(he crashes into a tree), he rips his jeans, and he learns how to strut(kind of). He tells Cinnamon he would write a song for her, but he has no clue about music. No doubt, his dork image is peeking through after he gets caught at a science competition and builds a hovercraft. Is he having second thoughts about being cool when he really wants to be with Brenda?