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Harry's dismal adolescent crisis
on July 5, 2003
When JK Rowling was a miserable, divorced welfare mother, she wrote about a beautiful, magical world that was fun to escape to. There were exciting landscapes & buildings, funny magical creatures, a school that everyone would want to attend, etc. Harry, a Dickensonian type orphan, was able to escape to this world and find friends, prizes, and glory. The writing was in a charming, chatty style, that lingered lyrically on the better parts of the wizarding world. Leisurely descriptions were intermingled with tightly written suspense and action. Ahh...
Now JK Rowling is richer than the Queen of England, has a new marriage and a new baby. Now she feels free to explore the darker side of this magical world and Harry's adolescent crisis. She also is feeling somewhat burdened by the pressure to get these books out. The result? Harry is in a bad temper. He has too much homework. Not only do the Dursley's torture him, he is tortured in detention. He snaps at his friends. They bicker with each other. He feels terribly sorry for himself. He is misunderstood.
There are few if any funny, happy scenes in this book. Harry wins no prizes and gets no glory. Fortunately, at least Ron does, which is nice.
Unlike JK Rowling, I have not passed into a better life. I was still hoping for a beautiful escape. The beginning of this book was so dismal I almost gave up on it. Though, having waited so long for it, I had to plug along.
The action did start really picking up in Chapter 16, so I was glad I had continued.
The writing style for the action parts is still nice and tight -- definitely a page turner. Unfortunately, the leisurely descriptions are reserved for Harry being tortured rather than for romantic views of the castle or charming magical creatures. You can't criticize Rowling's style at all. She's a great writer. She's just in a different place from me now.
I hope this isn't a spoiler, but the ending is hardly happy. In an interview, JK Rowling asked a reporter about Harry, "What makes you think he'll survive?" I'm not sure anyone took her seriously at the time, but after this book you'll certainly have to. If you are reading this to a young child, you may want to read ahead and reconsider. I can imagine some kids being upset.
I think I'm still hooked. I'll have to find out what happens in the next ones.
JK: Please don't kill Harry, Ron or Hermione off. OK? PLEEEEZE!!!
Addendum: The book does have some useful parts for teaching kids about dealing with anger.