King Dork

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King Dork
King Dork cover.jpg
Cover of the 2006 hardcover edition, resembling a torn and doodled-in paperback edition of The Catcher in the Rye with the original title and author obscured by correction fluid.
Author Frank Portman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult novel
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date
April 11, 2006
Media type Print
Pages 352
ISBN 0-385-73291-0
OCLC 60516780
LC Class PZ7.P8373 Ki 2006

King Dork is a young adult novel by Frank Portman first published in 2006. It received recognition as a 2007 Best Books for Young Adults from the American Library Association.[1] The novel features protagonist and disaffected slacker Tom Henderson in the fall of his high school sophomore year. The storyline focuses on Tom’s many problems in life including the death of his police officer father six years previous; his attempts to start a hard-rock band with his best and only friend Sam Hellerman; the daily difficulties of surviving a contemporary American high school filled with cruel peers, uncaring administrators and teachers obsessed with the novel Catcher in the Rye; his evolving relationship with his mother and stepfather; and negotiating the complexities of relating to the opposite sex.

The novel, while following a traditional linear narrative, frequently makes tangents in the first-person narrative where Tom examines his life and relationship to the rest of the world. The character of Tom speaks rarely and sparsely in the novel, but his internal dialogue is both verbose and extensive.

Plot summary[edit]

Outcast Tom Henderson begins his sophomore year of high school in as quiet way as possible but is set upon by the school’s many bullies and administration. Through a series of chance circumstances he soon finds himself investigating his father’s death, trying to put together a decent rock band with his only friend, searching out the identity of a mystery girl he met and made out with at a party, struggling to keep out of the way of the school’s psychotic “normal” kids bent on cruelly punishing him for existing. The myriad plot strands are brought together during and after a climatic battle of the bands in the school where he inadvertently is the cause of the disappearance of at least one teacher, earns the wrath of a new group of students, and the surprising admiration of some of those who previously despised him.

The Climax[edit]

Throughout the novel Tom and Sam devise various names for their band along with album titles and alternate identities for themselves. This is mostly done to ward away boredom, but to also find an identity for their music. At the climax of the novel, as Balls Deep, Sam and Tom, with their drummer Todd Panchowski, make their big debut at a school talent contest, but at the last moment when Tom is introducing the band, he changes their name to the Chi-Mos, his nickname in school. Tom feels they have a mostly successful show because most of their songs are designed to ridicule their vice principal which have a mostly positive reaction from the crowd, and his secret girlfriend Deanna, skips out of her Catholic school to see the show. In frustration with the failure of Todd to actually be an effective member of the band and walking out in the middle of the set, Tom and Sam destroy Todd’s drum kit and the cabinet housing Sam’s amplifier. Balls Deep/The Chi-Mos! wind up losing the contest.

Catcher in the Rye[edit]

One of the minor annoyances Tom copes with is what he terms the cult of Catcher in the Rye. Tom states every teacher in his school assigns Catcher in the Rye as mandatory reading, thereby sucking any literary, historical or rebellious merit out of the novel. The ironic part is that Tom Henderson and Holden Caulfield have much in common especially in their disaffected world view, difficulty of dealing with their peers, and even the odd detail of having a younger sister and emotionally distant parents.

Partway through the novel Tom finds a box of his father’s old books, including Catcher in the Rye and Brighton Rock, which he decides is the best book ever. Inside one of these books he finds an old coded message from his father to an unknown friend. This propels Tom into investigating his father’s death in an attempt to determine if the accident that killed his father was truly an accident, a murder or something else entirely.

Film adaptation[edit]

The film rights to the book were optioned by the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay Paramount/Vantage production company Gary Sanchez Productions in November 2006.[2] In May 2009 Portman reported that a new deal had been reached with Sony Pictures, with Gary Sanchez still set as the production company. Seth Gordon, director of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, was originally attached to direct the film.[3] In 2014, however, Portman stated that Miguel Arteta would be directing the film adaptation of King Dork.[4]


  1. ^ American Library Association (2007). "2007 Best Books for Young Adults". Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  2. ^ Sperling, Nicole (2006-11-16). "Gary Sanchez Catches 'King Dork'". The Book Standard. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  3. ^ "King Dork movie adaptation status update, release date for follow up". 2009-05-11. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  4. ^ Matheson, Whitney (27 May 2014). "Cover reveal: Frank Portman's 'King Dork Approximately'". USA Today. Retrieved 7 February 2015.