Here's what I really think of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6). I'll try to do it without any major spoilers...
- Amazing job for the timeframe. If I could write half as well under that sort of pressure I'd be thrilled. 100 points for Gryffindor!
- Story was slow and the stakes weren't clear up front. Most of the bad stuff happens off-stage or to very secondary or tertiary characters, and there are only a few dark hints about Malfoy to keep you going. In the midst of this lack of page-turning momentum, we have to endure yet more descriptions of quidditch. After five previous books of this, Rowling would be safe in assuming we can fill all this in for ourselves. 50 points to Slytherin.
- The denouement was incredibly painful and moving, but imagine how much more powerful it would have been if we knew the stakes from the beginning and if Harry had been locked from the start in an attempt to prevent it and was defeated--for the purposes of this installment. 75 points to Slytherin.
- The adolescent love stuff was dead on and very charming. It alone kept me reading in some sections of the book. I love how it will make kids laugh at themselves and maybe stop taking it all so seriously. 25 points to Gryffindor.
- Was interested in the profiling of Voldemort as a child sociopath--my favorite subject! But thought there was a missed opportunity in not holding the camera on Draco and Snape throughout the book and exploring their conflicts. Ambivalent evil is always more interesting than outright evil. Tie for points.
- Though I was very sad at the end, I'm actually sort of glad, too. Tired of the same old plot device of authority figures withholding critical information from Harry with disastrous results, and tired of Harry's possibly resultant pigheaded blindness about certain obvious things. So if the next book's action takes place outside the school and we're no longer limited to the same old round of school events to give the story structure, maybe Harry can finally grow a bit more. No points awarded.
- Rowling's real strength is her grasp of her plot. She never leaves a thread dangling, or an inconsistency. I admit I was surprised by the identity of the half-blood prince. Nice work, there. And the threads she leaves are what she means to leave, so...
- I'm totally hooked for the next book. 1000 points for Gryffindor.
Claudia Putnam is a YA novelist. Putnam was the winner of the 2003 Paul Guillette Memorial Writing Contest during the 2003 PPWC in the Young Adult Novel category. Her manuscript is under consideration by a publisher at this time. She's also published literary short fiction and poetry. In 1999 Putnam received a Ragdale Foundation fellowship. Putnam's nonfiction title, Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest, has been in print for the past 14 years. Some of her poems can be found at the Facets Magazine online pages.
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