aka YA Literature

Sunday, October 14, 2007

King Dork

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Narrator: Lincoln Hoppe
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: A-

I decided to listen to this book because I needed an audiobook for the weekend and none of my requests were in. Plus, I was getting ready for some booktalks, and I realized that I pretty much only read girly books and thus am not very familiar with more "guy" books.* I basically just pulled this off the shelf, looked at the synopsis and noted John Green's endorsement (despite the fact that he is dead to me), and figured, "Maybe this won't be too bad." But I really adored this book. I laughed so much, I can't even tell you. I appreciated the insightful commentary on AP teachers' love of A Catcher in the Rye and the way in which AP classes often have much easier and less relevant "projects" in the name of creativity and giftedness. The ever-changing band names and album titles ("Margaret? It's God. Please Shut Up.") were pure genius. I also liked how Portman made all the details come together (example: ChiMo). It was just great. And I think it is equally appealing to both males and females, and I can't wait to start pushing it on students. I do kinda wish it had a different title since I personally don't find the title very appealing or representative of the plot or greatness of this book.


The Bad: Usually I start with "the good," but I'll end with it this time because the narration started out pretty bad for me but ended up pretty good. Hoppe didn't sound like a teenager. At least at the beginning, he was breathy and sounded a lot like a Peanuts narrator to me. The performance was total narration, which doesn't have to be bad, but he didn't really capture the right notes of sarcasm and slang from the teen narrator, and it seemed that some characters (like Mr. Teone) just screamed for character voices instead of the same repetetive and breathy narration.

The Good: I didn't like the narrator for quite a while. His voice didn't seem right to me and he was missing lots of the sarcastic tones, in my opinion. However, after a couple of CDs, he either got better or I got used to it because by the end, I was enjoying the performance and thinking that Hoppe was doing a good job of portraying Tom's confusion, sarcasm, and general perspective.

* On the subject of booktalks, I've noticed people debating whether or not one should booktalk books one has not read. For the record, if anyone cares, I come firmly down on the "you can booktalk books you have not read" side. I have several reasons for feeling this way. (1) I have done it with success and with no bad experiences. (2) I don't pretend to have read them if I haven't, and no students have seemed upset or put off by this. (3) It is not possible to read all books. There are too many. I have many adult books I want to read in addition to all the YA ones I want to read. My life is too short and does not have enough time in it to read books I'm not interested in reading (especially when there are so many I want to read). Therefore, if I don't booktalk books I haven't read, I am really limiting the number and type of books I can booktalk.

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