Friday, January 12, 2007

He stole my title!

Not the title of the book. I'm saying this could have easily been my high school nickname. Could still be, really.

I just finished Frank Portman's (aka Dr. Frank) very fine book, King Dork. If you haven't heard of it yet, you soon will. Runaway hit, movie rights, blah blah blah. Don't let that turn you off. It's actually very good.

King Dork is the first-person tale of Tom Henderson, who is 14 years old, a near-total social outcast, the subject of constant mid- to high-level bullying, a rock and roll nerd, and the most virulent critic ever of Catcher in the Rye.

The plot is almost inconsequential, even though it ostensibly deals with the mysterious death of Tom's cop father, a mystery girl he meets at a party, and the bizarre behaviour of everyone from Tom's mom to his high school principal to his best (and only) friend.

It is one of the funniest books I've read in years. If you've ever wanted to know whether milk can come out of your nose, get yourself a tall glass right before the scene where Tom's band plays at the school's talent show.

The only thing that confuses me about the book is the fact that it's being marketed as Young Adult, and shelved as such in our local library. Seriously, there is a difference between a book about a young adult and one that will only appeal to a young adult. Usually, young adult books are notable either because they are badly written, or because they are preachy, moralistic and badly written. There wasn't this much oral sex and casual drug use in YA books when I was Tom's age, that's for sure.

Which makes me think that this was not written with a YA readership in mind. Rats Saw God, an excellent novel by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, is another mature (ie, sex that isn't presented as a Lesson) book that was marketed as YA. Thomas has commented in the past that he didn't actually intend the book to be YA, it was just the story he wanted to write.

That's not to say that young people (especially young, bullied, nerdy people) should not read King Dork. I would have loved this book when I was 14. So if you know a geeky, outcast kid, buy him or her a copy today. It'll hit a nerve.

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