Perhaps young adult fiction is not my thing. Perhaps I am a little too old, a little too far removed from high school. Whatever the reason, this book, full of clichés about high school groups never resonated with me. Is my memory fading? Or is it that, in the halls of my school, I missed noticing the clear tropes that are presented in Gork? The jocks I knew were often pretty (sometimes very) smart, and the popular students were rarely mean- either they were popular because they were actually nice, or because they were too busy being cool to even notice the kids who weren’t.

Whatever the disconnect, I did not enjoy the story about Gork, a teenage dragon with a big heart who lives in a world where bullying and violence are celebrated, though author Gabe Hudson does provide rich detail about life at War Wings Military Academy of Planet Conquering, Epic Poetry Writing, and Gold Plundering for Draconum where the students learn about dragon fighting techniques and play the most popular sport “Slave-Catching”, a game as odious as it sounds (I believe that is the point, but still).

In addition to the high school group clichés, there is a great deal of discussion about societal hierarchies, with the Normals (dragons) being superior to the Mortal/Machines (robots). The overriding theme- that discrimination is wrong and kindness is good- is clear by the end of the book. The message, like the imagery, is not in any way subtle.

Eventually, you have to relate to Gork and cheer for the safety of his oft-referenced “scaly green ass”. The last third of the book, where the focus is mostly on plot, is more entertaining than the beginning when the emphasis is on driving home the image of a violent and gruesome world. The story actually wraps up pretty quickly in the end, with some rather conveniently sizeable leaps in character development.

Overall, I’d give it 1.5 on a 5 point scale.