I know almost nothing about books written for 8th graders. I barely know anything about being an 8th grader! I belonged to a sub-caste of 8th graders who were even less social than the Dorkman himself. Frankly, I learned more about junior high in Pearce and Story's couple hundred pages than I ever did while embroiled in the experience. :-)
Mostly, I learned what could have happened if only I'd been wise and brave enough to reach for it.
Hence, I recommend the book.
Dorkman is no dress-up morality tale, though. The narrator and protagonist of the story, Cole, is the problem. And the problem is that he is a normal kid, with normal wishes and desires. Pearce and Story never play those wishes up or down, but give them to the reader straight. Cole wants exactly what I wanted in 8th grade, only he's got the talent to get it all. When he has to bend a couple stuffed-shirt principles to keep what he's earned, I could hardly blame him. I was too busy being jealous. :-)
That's what delighted me about the book. The conflicts were real, and the decisions Cole makes were real, too.
At the same time, you get to meet 4 other primary characters, two guys and two girls. A couple of them are "good guys" and a couple are not, but all are portrayed sympathetically. That is so key to me. Black is black and white is white in Dorkman, but the people are real. When the book is over, you know why Gordon or Ashley did the things they did, and you know whether you might do them. Or whether you could do better. Brilliant.
The book explores reasonably adult subject matter in an entirely G-rated way (which is much better than can be said for the real 8th grade!) but in a very challenging way. Peer pressure and young relationships form the matrix of the story, and are played to maximum effect. At least three times I wanted to put the book in the freezer! And all three times, what happened exceeded my fears. That's cool.
At all ages, reading is about roleplaying, imagining whether you could be like the hero. Dorkman will have your kids asking themselves some really good questions. I highly recommend it.
For a flavor of the book, here's the first chapter courtesy of http://www.dorkmancometh.com/