Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 King Dork Approximately


Picture the love child of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Revenge of the Nerds." That comes close to capturing the feel ofKing Dork Approximately. Our narrator is Thomas "Tom" Henderson, a sophomore in high school. We find Tom recovering from a vicious tuba attack. No, seriously, he was hit in the head with a tuba and has the scar and stitches to prove it. To add to his overall misery, his parents don't plan to sue anyone over the injury. Once he comes home and does a bit of convalescence, he also learns that his school is being closed and he will have to finish out the year at Clearview High. But you know what they say about every cloud having a silver lining, and maybe this is Tom's chance to start over. He can rise above being King Dork and actually be successful at this new school where many people don't know him yet. 

Tom gamely narrates his triumphs (not many), and his failures through the end of the school year. Among the various situations that arise - he finds himself with a girlfriend, his mom and stepfather have marital problems, his friend Sam is listening to confidence-building tapes, his band actually performs in public, and he finally figures out what his English teacher is looking for in the required book reports. Throughout the story he often uses words that he is a bit unsure of, so he says, "...if "erstwhile" means what I think it does," or whichever word he has used most recently. (He does get most of them right.) He spends a lot of time writing songs for his band to practice and one day perform, but having a girlfriend cuts into his time for that. Between the crazy diatribes against normalcy, the odd letters he receives from classmate Roberta, trying to learn to play "O'Brien Is Tryin' to Learn to Talk Hawaiian," and serving as Sam's sidekick, Tom is a pretty busy guy for an antisocial dork.

The book does a good job of capturing some aspects of high school life: popular kids picking on those who are different, the inability of adults to see what is really going on, the need for geeky kids to run in packs, the incomprehensibility of some teachers and their assignments, it's all in there. You also get a good dose of Tom's theories on rock and roll, what makes a good book, and how normal people should all be done in so that the meek can inherit the earth (since normal = the popular kids that pick on everyone else). Through it all we see Tom struggling to decide how much of his theories he is willing to give up in order to fit in and avoid trouble (hint - probably not enough).

If you enjoy realistic fiction punctuated with power vocabulary words, rock and roll references, and a jaundiced eye toward lettermans' jackets, then you will probably find this very entertaining. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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