DOKTOR FRANK’S NEW NOVEL KING DORK gets a review from the InstaMom, a children’s librarian. Click “read more” to read it.

Plus, Doktor Frank hits upon a new marketing strategy.

Portman, Frank. King Dork. Delacorte, 2006.

For anyone for whom “life is (or has ever been) a “wince-a-thon”, in the words of the main character Tom Henderson (alias “Chi-Mo”), King Dork will bring it all back–-and possibly make navigating high school a bit more meaningful–in real time or retrospect.

Tom is a skinny, awkward sophomore with only one ally, Sam Hellerman, who becomes his friend in elementary school mainly because of that law of nature, alphabetical order. The main plot line turns on Tom and Sam’s dream of becoming rock stars and attracting hot girls, a quest which is frustrated by their obvious dorkiness, the outright physical and psychological bullying of their “normal” classmates, their generally useless parents and school, and, chiefly, their lack of instruments and the ability to play a note. Undaunted, Tom daily continues to come up with names and first album titles for once and future bands, while Sam uses his considerable intellect to make things happen.

The secondary plot line involves Tom’s search for the cause of his father’s death (suicide vs. murder), beginning with cryptic codes and code keys scribbled in those bibles of 1970’s adolescent angst which belonged to Tom’s dad – Siddartha, A Separate Peace, and, of course, Catcher in the Rye. Tom intuits that the key to his search lies in a encrypted note from an friend of his father who calls himself “tit.” The working out of this mystery and the uncovering of Sam’s machinations, along with Tom’s first sexual encounters with the illusory “Fiona” and her doppelganger Deanna Schumacher, round out the action in this up-to-the-moment bildungsroman.

Like that other notorious coming-of-age hero, Harry Potter, Tom is a sympathetic stranger in a strange land whose basic sweetness protects him from the sheer meanness of the “normals” and the depraved administration at Hillmont High. Tom and his trusty sidekick Sam manage to put together a band and get a gig at the Hillmont “Festival of Light” (a.k.a. Battle of the Bands). Wielding their hard-won guitars like wands, Tom and Sam manage to overcome the Death
Eaters, (in the persons of bully Matt Lynch and the Vice-Principal Mr. Teone, the two-faced Voldemort of this piece) with Tom’s incantation of “We’re the Chi-Mos!”, the last and most transforming of his band names. (Read the whole thing to find out how!)

King Dork is a mystifying, moving, appalling, thought-provoking, sometimes convoluted, funny, and utterly absorbing novel for a reader at any stage of maturation. After all, as long as we live we’re still coming of age, and life remains a bit of a “wince-a-thon” for us all.