King Dork

King Dork

by Frank Portman


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King Dork by Frank Portman

King Dork will rock your world.” --John Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars

When Tom Henderson finds his dead father’s copy of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, his world is turned upside down. Suddenly high school gets more complicated: Tom (aka King Dork) finds himself in the middle of mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, a secret code, girls, and rock and roll. As he goes through sophomore year, he finds clues that may very well solve the puzzle of his father’s death and—oddly—reveal the secret to attracting semi-hot girls. (The secret might be being in a band, if he can find a drummer who can count to four.)
This unruly cult classic features song lyrics throughout and now includes a glossary and a bandography. And look for the sequel, King Dork Approximtely, available now.

Praise for King Dork:

“Basically, if you are a human being with even a vague grasp of the English language, King Dork will rock your world.”—John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
“[No account of high school] has made me laugh more than King Dork. . . . Grade A.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Impossibly brilliant.”—Time

“Provides a window into what it would be like if Holden Caulfield read The Catcher in the Rye.”—New York Post

“Loaded with sharp and offbeat humor.”—USA Today
“Original, heartfelt, and sparkling with wit and intelligence. This novel will linger long in readers’ memories.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review
“A biting and witty high-school satire.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Tom’s narration is piercingly satirical and acidly witty.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Starred Review
“King Dork is smart, funny, occasionally raunchy and refreshingly clear about what it’s like to be in high school.”—San Francisco Chronicle
King Dork: Best Punk Rock Book Ever.”—The Village Voice
“I love this book as much as I hated high school, and that’s some of the highest praise I can possibly give.”—

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385734509
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 02/12/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 625,655
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Frank Portman (aka Dr. Frank) is also the author of Andromeda Klein and the singer/songwriter/guitarist of the influential East Bay punk band the Mr. T. Experience (MTX). MTX has released about a dozen albums since forming in the mid-1980s. Frank lives in Oakland, California. Visit him online at, look for him on Facebook, and follow @frankportman on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt



They call me King Dork.

Well, let me put it another way: no one ever actually calls me King Dork. It's how I refer to myself in my head, a silent protest and an acknowledgment of reality at the same time. I don't command a nerd army, or preside over a realm of the socially ill-equipped. I'm small for my age, young for my grade, uncomfortable in most situations, nearsighted, skinny, awkward, and nervous. And no good at sports. So Dork is accurate. The King part is pure sarcasm, though: there's nothing special or ultimate about me. I'm generic. It's more like I'm one of the kings in a pack of crazy, backward playing cards, designed for a game where anyone who gets me automatically loses the hand. I mean, everything beats me, even twos and threes.

I suppose I fit the traditional mold of the brainy, freaky, oddball kid who reads too much, so bright that his genius is sometimes mistaken for just being retarded. I know a lot of trivia, and I often use words that sound made-up but that actually turn out to be in the dictionary, to everyone's surprise--but I can never quite manage to keep my shoes tied or figure out anything to say if someone addresses me directly. I play it up. It's all I've got going for me, and if a guy can manage to leave the impression that his awkwardness arises from some kind of deep or complicated soul, why not go for it? But, I admit, most of the time, I walk around here feeling like a total idiot.

Most people in the world outside my head know me as Moe, even though my real name is Tom. Moe isn't a normal nickname. It's more like an abbreviation, short for Chi-Mo. And even that's an abbreviation for something else.

Often, when people hear "Chi-Mo" they'll smile and say, "Hippie parents?" I never know what to say to that because yes, my folks are more hippie than not, but no, that's not where the name comes from.

Chi-Mo is derogatory, though you wouldn't necessarily know that unless you heard the story behind it. Yet even those who don't know the specific story can sense its dark origins, which is why it has held on for so long. They get a kick out of it without really knowing why. Maybe they notice me wincing when I hear them say it, but I don't know: there are all sorts of reasons I could be wincing. Life is a wince-a-thon.
There's a list of around thirty or forty supposedly insulting things that people have called me that I know about, past and present, and a lot of them are way worse than Moe. Some are classic and logical, like Hender-pig, Hender-fag, or Hender-fuck. Some are based on jokes or convoluted theories of offensiveness that are so retarded no one could ever hope to understand them. Like Sheepie. Figure that one out and you win a prize. As for Chi-Mo, it goes all the way back to the seventh grade, and it wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the fact that this particular nickname ended up playing an unexpectedly prominent role in the weird stuff that happened toward the end of this school term. So, you know, I thought I'd mention it.

Mr. Teone, the associate principal for the ninth and tenth grades, always refers to Sam Hellerman as Peggy. I guess he's trying to imply that Sam Hellerman looks like a girl. Well, okay, so maybe Sam Hellerman does look a little like a girl in a certain way, but that's not the point.

In fact, Mr. Teone happens to have a huge rear end and pretty prominent man boobs, and looks way more like a lady than Sam Hellerman ever could unless he were to gain around two hundred pounds and start a course of hormone therapy. Clearly, he's trying to draw attention away from his own nontraditionally gendered form factor by focusing on the alleged femininity of another. Though why he decided to pick on Sam Hellerman as part of his personal battle against his own body image remains a mystery.

I'm just glad it's not me who gets called Peggy, because who needs it?

There's always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.

This year, it was an evil omen, like when druids observe an owl against the moon in the first hour of Samhain and conclude that a grim doom awaits the harvest. That kind of thing can set the tone for the rest of the year. What I'm getting at is, the first living creature Sam Hellerman and I encountered when we penetrated the school grounds on the first day of school was none other than Mr. Teone.

The sky seemed suddenly to darken.

We were walking past the faculty parking, and he was seated in his beat-up '93 Geo Prizm, struggling to force his supersized body through the open car door. We hurried past, but he noticed us just as he finally squeezed through. He stood by the car, panting heavily from the effort and trying to tuck his shirt into his pants so that it would stay in for longer than a few seconds.

"Good morning, Peggy," he said to Sam Hellerman. "So you decided to risk another year." He turned to me and bellowed: "Henderson!" Then he did this big theatrical salute and waddled away, laughing to himself.

He always calls me by my last name and he always salutes. Clearly, mocking me and Sam Hellerman is more important than the preservation of his own dignity. He seems to consider it to be part of his job. Which tells you just about everything you need to know about Hillmont High School society.

It could be worse. Mr. Donnelly, PE teacher and sadist supreme, along with his jabbering horde of young sports troglodytes-in-training, never bother with Moe or Peggy, and they don't salute. They prefer to say "pussy" and hit you on the ear with a cupped palm. According to an article called "Physical Interrogation Techniques" in one of my magazines (Today's Mercenary), this can cause damage to the eardrum and even death when applied accurately. But Mr. Donnelly and his minions are not in it for the accuracy. They operate on pure, mean-spirited, status-conscious instinct, which usually isn't very well thought out. Lucky for me they're so poorly trained, or I'd be in big trouble.

But there's no point fretting about what people call you. Enough ill will can turn anything into an attack. Even your own actual name.

"I think he's making fun of your army coat," said Sam Hellerman as we headed inside. Maybe that was it. I admit, I did look a little silly in the coat, especially since I hardly ever took it off, even in the hottest weather. I couldn't take it off, for reasons I'll get to in a bit.

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King Dork 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book - I was a serious Queen dork in high school - I even made up band names with my dorky friends. This book is ageless. Everyone can dive into this whether you are a dork or just want to delve into the mysterious world of dorkdom.
dork4life More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I don't think you can ever be to old to enjoy a coming of age tale. Read this book and try to avoid normal-psychotics.
ThomasCole More than 1 year ago
After I read King Dork I thought it was a great book. What really drew me into the book was the theme. I really enjoyed the theme because I see it almost every day in school. The other thing i liked about this book was the main character. Me and Tom Henderson both have the same interests in classic rock and playing the guitar. King dork was a great book and I would suggest reading it. The book does have some bad language for kids 12 and under but, I would request this to many other teenagers my age. Overall King Dork was a great book and I enjoyed every page of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book "King Dork" seems confusing at first but it all sorts out in page- turning explanations. What I enjoyed about this book was the repeated phrase "I kid you not" it's different and unique to what you would read today. The unsolvable mysteries of his father's death make an interesting topic for this novel. Though you and the main character (Tom Henderson) never find out how he died. Tom and his friend (Sam Hellerman) try and come up with multiple explanations due to the evidence found and codes broken. The other half of this book is about rock and roll. I enjoy music so it makes the book more enjoyable for me. In the book their band has an ever-changing name but in the mist of it they get their new instruments and find the drummer they have endlessly looked for. The high school they attend is called Hillmont High but the way they look at it they think it's better named Hellmont due to the drama. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries, music and/or high school drama. "King Dork was a riveting summer experience.
MargieS1 More than 1 year ago
Given To Me For An Honest Review King Dork by Frank Portman is a book that after reading page one you'll love it and want more.  Yes, it is a bit dated but it is still a funny, weird and humorous book.  The story is told by a teenage boy.  He is funny, too smart and self conscious and also defensive and searching.  If you can remember when you were in high school you may just enjoy reading this.  If you are in need for a laugh or a bit of  a snicker then this is for you.  I look for more from Frank Portman
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thx! Your awesome! I read a book that said PMS was crankiness and cramping and i get cramps sometimes. I am definetly recommending u!
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In King Dork, Frank Portman tells the colorless life of a typical nerdy teenager who struggles with the death of his father throughout his high-school career. Frank Portman writes this book in a humorous style that mocks the 1950's novel The Catcher In The Rye. In this high-school career he has to suffer through, this boy finds a way to cope with his best friend, well his only friend, by making up unimaginable rock band names and fantasies. After humiliating experiences with bullies, girls, and teachers, he somehow finds ways to make it through this long and dull year of school. Tom Henderson is just a non-gratifying, non-athletic, and non-social teenager who throughout the course of this book finds some of his father's old books. His father passed away and tom has no clue how or why it happened. His one and only friend Sam Hellerman, is always coming up with new names for their new fantasy rock band. There are points where Tom goes to a party or get together and he got particularly fond of one person in certain. Tom is trying to be more social and get more involved with people at his school so he has more friends and more ways to get over the death of his father. One way he deals with the humiliation of kids at school is when he finds a box of books of his father's from when he was in school and a young boy such as Tom is now. This book's dull and conventional plot is shown by the humorous and mocking style that Frank Portman has made. The novel has made its point of being long and dragging on by using non-entertaining events and opposite views of The Catcher In The Rye. In a sense, this story goes through a dull state but very slowly picks up through multiple ridiculous events but comes to a much wanted closure of the story.
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