Monday, January 21, 2008

pretty much whatever

King Dork
Frank Portman

Nothing defined my teenage years like depressing music and good books, and I know that nearly everyone can agree that music is never better than when you’re in high school. I spent my teens listening to Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson and feeling as though these heroin-addicted men truly understood my adolescent female torment, as evidenced by such classic tunes like "Cake and Sodomy."

Meanwhile, as I was listening to music that made me want to crawl in a hole and die, I was busy reading crap like the Sweet Valley High series. That Lila Fowler was such a bitch!

Bitch will cut you

Another literary vice of mine – and I’m using the term “literary” very loosely – was Christopher Pike. That man could have shit on paper and I would have paid top dollar for the pleasure of reading it. Just kidding! I didn’t have money back then. I really mean I would have made my mom pay top dollar. Christopher Pike books were kinda like Sweet Valley High, only with monsters and murder. In an unfortunate sidenote, I recently spent some good money on a bunch of Pike books in hopes of finding myself as enraptured as I was in high school. Needless to say, some things are best left in the past.

Tom Henderson, the star of King Dork, feels the same way I do. This high-school nerd spends his time obsessing about music and trying to avoid reading The Catcher in the Rye for what seems like the billionth time. Things change, however, when he comes across his deceased father’s copy of the book. Tom finds more than just a well-known classic – he finds a mystery inside, a mystery that only he can unravel. Convinced that this book holds the secret to his father’s death, Tom is determined to learn exactly what happened that fateful night. In the process, he reads other good books, plans to make out with girls, and gets his band underway.

That’s right. Tom’s in a band, a fact that, in my humble opinion, prevents him from being much of a dork. I think anyone can argue that bands = cool. True, for much of the book he’s talks about being in a band more than he actually makes music, but still. Of course, Tom is subject to the ridicule and sometimes physical assaults of his peers (and even of his teachers). Still, I’m pretty sure that, barring disfiguring acne or nasty body odor, Tom is someone I would have dug in high school.

While reading King Dork, I was put off by something that I could not quite put my finger on. I enjoyed the book, but something prevented me from enjoying it more fully. After having finished it, I learned that King Dork is technically a book for “young adults.” Somehow this knowledge makes a big difference, and I like it all the more after knowing that King Dork is aimed at a younger audience.

In a nutshell: If King Dork taught me anything, it’s that you can name a band (and, by extension, a blog post) pretty much whatever. (See?) Light and fun, King Dork is a coming-of-age tale with a contemporary twist.

Bibliolatry Scale: 4 out of 6 stars

And, out of curiosity, what music got you through those rough teenage years? Post your teen favorites in the comments.


Kamakaze Feminist said...

The one band that changed me and truly helped me love music was Sleater-Kinney. Hands down greatest band in my opinion. So great, so kick ass and just incredible. That was mid teens, when I was younger I loved that song Torn by Natalie Imbrugia. I had no clue who did it for the longest time and luckily found the title and artist.

Sean said...

I am in total agreement on the Sweet Valley High books and Christopher Pike. Add to that V.C. Andrews (thought I could have done without the incest) Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

As for music, I'd have to say a combination of Def Leppard and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

amy goldman koss said...

Laura Nyro & Emmylou Harris got me through.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha I guess I was a bit of an oddball in high school. Music didn't really define me as it were, but rather I defined my music. It was more of a time of musical discovery for me. Now, I prefer older Rock and metal music, but I found myself listening to a lot of techno, and embracing my roots by listening to Irish folk rock.

Imani said...

Ha! I was a huuuuuuge Christopher Pike fan too and would have battled to the death to assert his supremacy over R.L. Stine (whose books I also enjoyed but I figured him for a poor man's version of the real thing, which was Pike). Never was tempted to reread them now though; as your experience has showed better to stick with the memories.

I liked King Dork a lot too. It made me read Catcher in the Rye, for one thing, and had the funniest band names ever, for another.

Megan said...

Well, I had my angsty phase where it was all Nirvana, Live, and Bob Dylan.

Then there was the retro punk phase with Blondie, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols.

Then there was the "indie geek" phase where I listened to a lot of They Might Be Giants and bands no one ever heard of.

Also, I believe I have two words that top Sweet Valley High. Those two words are: Nancy. Drew. The modern ones, to be sure, but still.