- Craig Graziano
Tom Henderson is back for a new semester at a new school in King Dork Approximately. In the previous book, his father's encoded copy of Catcher in the Rye inadvertently led to a takedown of Hillmont High's creepy principal and earned Tom a severe head injury in the process.
It is hard to keep a good man down, though. Tom is about to tackle a whole new social ecosystem at Clearview High School, where school spirit and Badger pride reign supreme. Unfortunately, he's going to have to do it alone since his best friend and personal genius Sam Hellerman has transferred elsewhere.
Armed with only a powerful vocabulary, Tom must learn Clearview's ways in order to survive. In the meantime, solving the mystery of his father's death will have to take a backseat to safely navigating his new environment and possibly getting his band another gig.
It is essential for readers to start with Tom's earlier adventures in King Dork. The real treasure of both books is Tom's hilarious criticism of teenaged life. Frank Portman has a true talent for capturing and commenting upon the confusing nature of adolescence. Tom's life is a whirlwind of circumstances beyond his control, and between his cynical jabs we see a slight maturation in the face of adversity.
Also an improvement is Portman's development of female characters, who were one-sided in the first book. That may have simply been because we met them through the eyes of a physically starved tenth-grader. Roberta, a proud Badger on the surface, intrigues Tom on a more emotional and intellectual level than the girls he met in the first book.
Throw in a wonderful side story where Tom and Sam trick their band's drummer into not showing off while playing --"We were doing it for humanity"-- and you have the second act of a high school comedy that combines the personalities from Freaks and Geeks with the shambling chaotic nature of A Confederacy of Dunces. Tom Henderson is my favorite fictional teen of all time. Tom Henderson is King Dork Approximately.