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Literature / King Dork

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Tom Henderson (aka Chi-Mo, aka King Dork) is a nerdy, disaffected high school sophomore. Bored with the drudgery of high school, the abuse of "normal people," and his embarrassing hippie parents, he spends his free time coming up with band names with fellow terrible musician Sam Hellerman.

After Tom's boring English class gets off to a dreary start, Tom finds his deceased father's old copy of The Catcher in the Rye, along with several other books, all of which contain underlinings and notes that help Tom decode several ambiguous, coded notes his father left in the books. All Tom knows is that his father's buddy in coding went by the nickname "Tit."

While Tom is figuring out the mystery of his dad's coded messages, he has his first sexual encounter with a spacey stoner chick named Fiona. Unfortunately, he cannot find any evidence of Fiona's existence, leaving Tom with another mystery to piece together.

Notable in that the cover, featuring the title and author of The Catcher in the Rye crossed out, explicitly advertises the book as a modern counterpart to Catcher.

The book was written by Frank Portman (a.k.a. Dr. Frank), the lead singer and chief songwriter of Bay Area punk band The Mr. T Experience. A sequel titled King Dork Approximately was published in 2014. Portman has also written another Young Adult novel in the same universe (an adult Sam Hellerman makes a cameo in it), Andromeda Klein, published in 2009.

Tropes used in this work:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: The more popular kids at school (read: nearly everybody in school because Tom is very close to the bottom of the hierarchy), whom Tom bitingly calls "psychotic normal people."
  • All There in the Manual: The book contains a glossary loosely detailing and defining esoteric vocabulary words, cultural icons and a number of rock and roll bands used and mentioned within the narrative itself. Loosely, because some of the definitions would leave a reader who didn't already understand the references stumped.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Or at least, they will all cheat on their boyfriends.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Tom's stepfather, Little Big Tom, is this trope personified. Tom's stoner mother isn't much better.
  • Appropriated Appellation: At their first concert, Tom dubs his band "The Chi-Mos."note 
  • Catchphrase: Little Big Tom likes to say "rock'n'roll!", either sincerely to indicate that something cool is happening (usually while nothing remotely cool is happening), or sarcastically when he feels like he's committed an Epic Fail.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mr. Teone, the weird, giggly assistant principal who constantly greets Tom with nonsensical comments.
  • Concert Climax: The climax of the book begins when Tom and Sam's band (then called the Chi-Mos) play a set at the school talent show.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Mr. Teone's full name is Tony Isadore Teone, "Tit" for short.
  • Full-Name Basis: Sam Hellerman especially; Tom refers to nearly all of his peers by their full names.
  • Gambit Roulette: Tom is unsatisfied with Sam's explanation of the clues they collected because it has shades of this.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Tom mocks this trope as something that never happens in real life. But at the end, he ends up with two hot babes giving him sexual favors.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Tom and Sam Hellerman's favorite pastime is coming up with band names and album covers. They change the name of their band about twenty times in the book, all of which are listed at the end.
  • Hippie Name: Pierre Butterfly Cameroon is mentioned as an unfortunate victim of his Hippie Parents' naming, as his name makes him a social outcast.
  • Intercourse with You: The song "I Wanna Ramone You" which mainly consists of the words "I wanna ramone you".
  • Joke and Receive: Tom and Sam name their band the "Chi-Mos" (child molesters) and some of their songs mention their assistant principal Mr. Teone having sexual misconduct towards students (though they just wrote that because he's a jerk and kind of creepy). It turns out Mr. Teone actually was running an underage pornography ring, and flees the school when the police investigate at the end of the book.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Thinking Of Suicide" from the audiobook.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Subversion: When Tom finds out that Mr. Teone was his father's best friend, Tit, he briefly wonders if maybe the man has Hidden Depths. Turns out that those depths were an underage porn trade.
  • The Plan: When Tom finds out the truth behind "Dud/Dude List", a social experiment conducted and game played by girls within the high school, the recent rapid changes in his sex life, and Sam Hellerman's association with girls out of both their leagues, Tom suspects that Sam Hellerman had been behind everything and that he could never have failed with the proper information. To wit: Dud/Dude List involved girls attempting to score points by engaging in romantic and sexual acts with different boys in the school, with point values determined by how serious the actions were, how public it was and where the boy in question was on the social totem pole. Sam Hellerman had convinced the popular Celeste Fletcher to target both himself and Tom with a win/win deal - Celeste would receive a massive amount of points because of how incredibly unpopular Tom and Sam Hellerman were, and Tom and Sam Hellerman would, of course, get to feel up a hot girl. Sam Hellerman, however, wanted Celeste all to himself, so he had her disguised as "Fiona" when she and Tom hooked up, and then sent Tom on a seemingly wild goose chase after "Fiona" so that Sam Hellerman could have Celeste all to himself (It's important to mention that the girl suspected of being Fiona, Deanna Schumacher, was chosen only for her looks and non-proximity, but she ended up granting Tom sexual favors anyway, and was somewhat involved in his father's death). The end result? Both he and Tom were regularly hooking up with Celeste (but to Sam Hellerman's knowledge she was only hooking up with him) and Tom was hooking up with Deanna. Sam Hellerman's plan to get the two of them laid had succeeded, and even when he thought he had failed things still worked out.
  • Sadist Teacher: Gym teacher Mr. Donnelly. Mr. Teone is a borderline example, being more of a repulsive Cloud Cuckoo Lander than a sadist. Until it turns out that he was running an underage porn operation at the high school.
  • Spoof Aesop: According to Tom, the moral of the story is: "if you are in a band, even a crappy one, semi-hot girls will give you blow jobs as long as you promise them that no one will ever have to find out about it." He admits that it isn't much of one.
  • Totally Radical: Not the speech, but the reference to Recovered Memory Therapy - the book takes place a few years after the practice had lost its trendiness, and was published long after it had stopped being relevant.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: Although the book was released in 2006, the story itself is set around 1999.
  • Unfortunate Names: Pierre Butterfly Cameroon, victim of hippie parents.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Tom is pretty thoroughly biased against anybody and everybody, and very prone to misinterpreting things.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Tom and Sam use the term "ramoning" for having sex with someone.