King Dork by Frank Portman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I recently saw Dr. Frank play when he was in Seattle, and hadn't realized before that night that he was the same Frank Portman that wrote this book. I love his music and clever songs, and immediately bumped King Dork to the top of my to-read list.
Now I never was a teenage boy, so I'll give the benefit of the doubt that this is really how boys think, especially about girls. I was quite a bit turned off at first with how Tom viewed and treated Fiona at the party. He kept going on about her body, and not really focusing on the other stuff he liked about her. He couldn't even recognize her face if he saw her again.
Fortunately, good parts of this book mostly made up for the bad. I loved Tom and Sam's rotating list of bands, and their commitment to being in a band, even if it wasn't always a real one. It's hard to believe saying you're in a band has this effect on women, but I guess it's true.
I read a lot of reviews talking about how the girls in this book are sluts and how this book is completely sexist. First of all, who has the right to call a girl a slut for being open with her sexuality, especially as a teenager? If Deanna and Celeste did anything wrong, it was cheating on their boyfriends, but you can't be mad at them for being with multiple guys if that is their choice. If anything, these girls are a sign that the book isn't actually sexist. Sure, Tom ends up with 2 girls he's "seeing" and doesn't tell them about each other, but they each have multiple guys they are also "seeing," so the sexual revolution goes both ways, I guess. The biggest thing to object to is mostly how Tom and the others talk about these girls, not in their actions themselves.
The most interesting part of this book to me was Tom's search for the truth about his dad, and his research into the C.E.H. library. He had obviously not come to terms with his Father's death, especially with all the mystery surrounding it. Finding these books, and a mystery that he could possibly unravel about his father's teenage years, gave Tom a chance to connect with the father who was gone on another level. Of course, we are frustratingly left with no real conclusion to Tom's search, but isn't that how life normally is? Not every mystery gets solved, especially when people are sticking to multiple, different stories. Whether Tom's dad's death was a suicide, accident, or murder, it's likely we'll never know. It goes along with the idea that every narrative is subjective. Tom mentions at one point that Holden Caulfield is an unreliable narrator, and it made me think that it's possible Tom is unreliable as well. Were these girls really that into him? Nobody knows but him.
All in all, I was left thinking this book was pretty good, and despite the rocky start, I was glad I finished it, if only for the awesome glossary at the end, with both correct and incorrect pronunciations and hilarious definitions. I also dislike Jimmy Buffet, by the way. It's very important you know this about me.
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