King Dork

Common Sense Media says

Dark, funny coming-of-age with lots of mature content.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Could lead to some valuable discussions about the realism of the high school portrayed here -- you may want to talk to your teen about their own experiences at school and if anything resonates here.

Positive messages

This is a coming-of-age story that will resonate with anyone who ever felt like a misfit in high school (so, pretty much everyone).

Positive role models

Tom is a smart kid who cares about his family and likes to learn things that interest him, although most of what he's "taught" in school doesn't fall in that category (he's constantly running down the educational system).

Violence

Tom is beaten and bullied, as are other characters. He also beats up a bully. A couple of possible murders or suicides. Much hazing, and nasty boxing matches.

Sex

Lots of references to teen sex, masturbation, oral sex, child molesters, sodomy, rape, and porn. Tom kisses and fondles a girl and experiences oral sex. An adult character is busted for running a teen sex porn ring.

Language

Lots of "f--k"s and other swearing, including many offensive sexual words and put-downs.

Consumerism

Some guitars/musical equipment mentioned by name. Lots of bands/musicians mentioned by name.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of smoking, drinking, and drugs (both prescription and illegal) used with no consequences by both adults and teens.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that King Dork is a funny, dark, coming-of-age book with mature content that makes it most appropriate for older teens. Though not overly graphic or explicit, it is filled with references to sex, drugs, and (have to say it) rock 'n' roll. The main teen character experiences oral sex several times, and has a couple of heavy make-out sessions. Tom is constantly running down the educational system -- and this book provides a pretty harsh look at high school -- but he is a smart kid who cares about his family and likes to learn things that interest him. This book could lead to some valuable discussions about the realism of the high school portrayed here -- you may want to talk to your teen about their own experiences at school and if anything resonates here. Tom's story may have special appeal to male teen readers.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Tom Henderson is a decent kid on the fringes of the high school from hell -- though it may, in fact, be just like most high schools. He's persistently tormented (by boys) and humiliated (by girls), and the teachers and administrators are little better. His father died years ago under mysterious circumstances, his mother is a distant self-medicator, and his stepfather a well-meaning but inane aging hippie. Tom's only solace is his one friend, Sam, and their pastime of making up imaginary rock bands. Then he finds a set of books, including Catcher in the Rye (which everyone in the world except Tom seems to love) left by his father. Could these books contain clues to both his life and death? Maybe -- or maybe not.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This debut novel by East Bay punk rocker Dr. Frank has so much going for it that it may be the literary find of the year. First, it's laugh-out-loud, still-chuckling-10-minutes-later funny, the kind of clever, sardonic, intelligent humor that will have your teens calling up their friends to read passages out loud. The humor, though, is set in high relief by the story's depth, complexity, and sophistication. There's a realism here that goes far beyond most books, either for teens or for adults. All the characters, major and minor, are more than meet the eye, and the layers of their personalities don't always fit together as smoothly as they usually do in fiction. Their lives are as complex as their personalities.

Very few ends are neatly tied up, but unlike most books that try this, it isn't frustrating at all -- in fact it makes perfect sense. Interspersed with all the plot intricacies are Tom's, and the author's, musings, bits of philosophy, rants, and outsider observations, often wickedly funny and always interesting and thought-provoking. Together it all makes for a delightful read.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age stories. What does that term mean -- and what are some classic examples? How does King Dork compare to Catcher in the Rye, which features heavily in this book? Does either story resonate more with your own high school experience?

  • A movie is being made based on this book. Will you see that movie? Who would you cast in Tom's part? If you were making the movie, what would you change, if anything?

Book details

Author:Frank Portman
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:April 30, 2006
Number of pages:344

This review of King Dork was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybri123craw December 27, 2009
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
I love this book. It is so funny. Chi-mo (the main character) isnt always the best example for children but it is an honest discription of some kids are. It wonderfully describes all the hardships that teenagers to through. five starss!
Teen, 16 years old Written byXoxoKatie September 28, 2009
AGE
16
QUALITY
 
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 16 years old Written bymoviemogul April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Excellently written and hilarious

This is a great novel, and I highly reccommend it to anyone who is in highschool or has been. I would also have anyone who is going to be in highschool too, but this has too many sexual situations that are ddescribed in good detail, and the fact that everyone gets high or drunk (or at least talks about it all the time), that I agree with the CSM age.

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