King Dork

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
King Dork Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Dark, funny coming-of-age with lots of mature content.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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).


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.


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.


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


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybookwormforever July 28, 2011

Amusing, and boys will enjoy it

Very amusing. I listened to the audio version, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the protrayal of high school and I even learned a little bit about rock an... Continue reading
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bydemonkiller February 27, 2011
i like it bc its get to me and its a fun and great book.
Kid, 9 years old October 8, 2014


it sucks i read it over the holidays i hate it
Kid, 10 years old March 11, 2012

a mixed bag

while a character in the story does have sex, curses constantly, and has a friend who does drugs. It has good stuff it talks a lot about catcher in the rye but... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love misfits

Themes & Topics

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