Friday, June 22, 2007

All Readers are not created equal

I've just finished reading King Dork by Frank Porter, and I'm a little mystified on how to comment on it. It's YA, it's about a guy who believes (probably correctly) that he is the biggest dork in his school, and the novel is about a couple of months in his life. He and his friend are in a band, although neither of them can really play the guitar and it takes them a while to find a drummer, but he can't count beyond 3. The dork has a very weird mother and a hippie-like stepfather, he obsesses about a girl he groped and kissed in the dark at a party (first time ever), and also obsesses about his father's death and reads his dad's old books from high school to try and find out more about him. Towards the end, he also tries to find out how his dad really died.
That's about it really.
I was trying to describe it to my friend, G, and saying that it was quite a long book but nothing really happened. She said, "Do you mean the dramatic story arc just stayed low (imagine her hand in a very gentle upwards slope) instead of having that big rise in tension and drama that we're used to (hand veers sharply upwards)?"
Um, yes. I did keep reading it to the end, but it was an effort. Then I started wondering who the intended reader is. Some girls might like it, and feel sorry for the main character. In trying to work out what kind of young male reader might like it, I came up with either: 1) guys who think they, too, are dorks and identify with the character and story, 2) guys who like music and the whole wanting-to-be-in-a-band plotline, or 3) guys who like reading (there are quite a few) and like the characters anyway.
I don't think I'm the intended reader - not just because I'm not a teenager, but because I do like stories with bigger dramatic plot and character arcs. I find them more interesting and satisfying. I'm going to keep a look out for reviews on this book, especially those written by teen readers. Or if you've read it, please do post a comment.
I've moved on to the new Lee Child. Jack Reacher rules!


Anonymous said...

hi sherryl - I love your blog and am happy to comment! ... well I read king dork quite a while back because of buzz and because I like any book that has pop culture references that help to drive the story (as opposed to being plonked in there as a shorthand to story) - When I think back on the book now I don't see any up, up, up, DOWN kind of arc - it reads to me like a book written without much consideration for that kind of thing and that's one of the reasons I love it. I was satisfied enough with the denoument - mystery solved, girl got, vindication! - but mostly the book appealed because it was so unruly, tangential .. etc ... in the states king dork is huge with teens and adults who are interested in subcultures, who are 'outside', who don't completely trust adults, who have opinions on music ... there are 'sam hellerman' t-shirts being worn that were not created by the publisher ... publishers are now talking about a myspace or youtube generation where books are pimped by people NOT publicity machines - kids even! And I think this is a great thing and can only hope it starts to happen more here ...
simmone howell
ps - there's a review in the age today by mike shuttleworth

Sherryl said...

Thanks, Simmone. Your comments are really useful and I can see how readers would like the way the book doesn't do what you expect. Mike obviously loved it! It does seem to be one of those books that would have almost a cult following (which to me means there's a whole heap of people who like it for their own reasons, not because of media hype).
Regarding publishers using YouTube or MySpace - apparently Penguin UK tried to do a viral marketing campaign this way and it mostly bombed because teenagers sussed out really quickly that it was a commercial thing and not something that came from a reader or fan, and there was a backlash against the book. Poor author!