Frank Portman’s King Dork

March 2, 2010 at 1:59 pm (Young Adult Lit)

While I thought moments of this book were very funny, I was mostly annoyed by the book. I don’t know if its because I haven’t read “Catcher in the Rye” in years, and am not part of what Portman calls the “Catcher Cult.” I can see that many of the things in this book are meant to be references to “Catcher,” but I’m not close enough to both books to make the connections, which mainly makes those connections have the irritating feeling of a reference that is slightly out of reach. I also felt with this book, like with “Feed” by M. T. Anderson, that this is a book written by an adult for other adults dressed up as a YA novel. The constant references to 70s music, as well as the curious absence of appropriate technology, make this seem like the author is imagining his 70s adolescence as it would have happened in the 90s. This also something that feels true about the central premise, the retelling of “Catcher in the Rye” for a new generation.  I don’t think “Catcher” is as important a book about teen alienation, or at as singular of an example in the 90s as it was in the 60s or 70s. I didn’t identify with the protagonist, and I don’t think his situation is one that would be widely identified with by contemporary teenagers. In the age of the internet everyone can find people with similar interests. Also, by the end of the novel, the character has swung too far to the opposite extreme. He’s not popular, but he has a place in the social structure of his school, and he’s getting three blow jobs a week from “semi-hot girls,” in what seems to be an unnecessary touch of misogyny.


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