I loved Frank Portman’s book King Dork. Tom Henderson, otherwise known as the title character, King Dork, has such a brilliantly cutting view of school and the world. He sees through the BS and the condescension of adults and “normal” students who torture him. When he declared that all you need to do to ace a high school honors course is be able to make a decent collage, I knew I was in love. It’s been a few years and The King has returned in King Dork Approximately. I have only started the book (I’m on page 73 of 332), but I didn’t want to wait to post.
King Dork is everything I look for in a Young Adult book and main character. He’s a kid who nobody is fooling. He’s facing serious problems, and is coping through a wicked and irreverent sense of humor and rich fantasy life, and taking bold actions when forced. The fact that he loves music is a fantastic bonus. In the new book, Tom picks up where he left off.
Tom’s situation and standing in his world hasn’t changed, though. He’s a thinker and has a lot of ideas about the world which he shares relentlessly. He presents his “General Theory of the Universe” on page 26. Reading it was one of those great moments for me when I wanted to jump up off my seat and shout ‘YES!’ at the top of my lungs. I refrained from that as I was in my classroom during our silent reading period. I would have not only seriously disrupted my student’s reading, but I might also have given them one more reason to think I’m nuts. Instead I did what I have done before after reading something that rings so true – I ran around school (and then home) and made everyone who happened to make eye contact with me read it. Forcible sharing it was, and I am not sorry. I now share it with you.
Tom Henderson’s General Theory of the Universe from King Dork Approximately
“That the normal people who attack rock and roll misfits with tubas and put defenseless nerdy kids in garbage cans and throw gum in their hair and tease fat girls into suicidosity et cetera are merely the lowest foot soldiers in an integrated, extremely well-organized totalitarian social structure that extends through the student body, the school system, the city, the state, the country and its entire population and culture as well as those of the whole world, and, ultimately, to nature itself, all organized around a pseudo-Darwinian principle that may best be described as Survival of the Cruelest and the Dumbest, and just barely masked by an increasingly threadbare curtain of pretty lies, which-the curtain of lies, I mean-is most prominently exemplified by this godforsaken hellhole of a book called The Catcher in the Rye.”
YES!!!! This. This is why YA books with real and self aware characters hit me in the gut. The cruelest and the dumbest don’t just go away afte high school. They go on to be our bosses or co-workers or political leaders and any confrontation with them can go terribly wrong. However, those who recognize the machine and help themselves and others to throw monkey wrenches into it – via rock and roll, protests and demonstrations, and daringly honest criticism of the powers that be – are helping all of us misfits and righting wrongs. Nobody has full constitutional rights as a minor and even less so within the walls of a school building. If we don’t let that crush our spirits, we can keep fighting to disrupt the totalitarian structure and give other misfits hope.
If that rings true to you, then you should sit by me, join the conversation here and run away with the circus — this here blog.
Welcome Tom Henderson to our circus. Freaks like you are our kind of people. You give us hope and let us know that we’re not alone.