Before I begin my review of J.K. Rowling's new book, "The Casual Vacancy," I would first like to address the bespectacled, lightning scarred elephant in the room. It would be impossible not to mention Rowling's first success when discussing her newest novel, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum of "Harry Potter."
Let me make this completely clear: Other than a character being named "Barry," there is no resemblance between Rowling's novels.
There is no magic in this book, which is set in the modern-day, fictional English town of Pagford. There are no wizards or witches or spells.
But there is an abundance of sex, drugs, domestic violence, alcoholism and profanity.
The worst word in the entire "Potter" series is the horrible "B" word, shrieked right before one character kills another. If this disturbed you in any way, shape or form, you should definitely not read "The Casual Vacancy," where serious curse words are uttered several times on one page alone.
When Little, Brown and Co. revealed that Rowling was releasing a new novel in September, Harry Potter fans went into a frenzy of roller coaster-like emotions.
JKR is writing a new novel! But it's not Harry Potter ... But JKR is writing a new novel! But it's for adults ... what the heck does that mean?
Well, they weren't lying when they said it was for adults.
The novel jumps between several different character's viewpoints after Barry Fairbrother dies. His death sparks conflicts and issues between the characters, who range in age from 3 to 65. There are more than 80 characters in this 500-page book. It gets quite confusing.
One of my biggest concerns when beginning this book was that it just wasn't going to be well written. Having been a children's author for more than a decade, Rowling is an amazing writer. However, her writing was kept more simple for her audience. It was the storyline that drew people of all ages to read her books. But that was not a problem at all for this novel. "The Casual Vacancy" is very sophisticated and mature, and such a different writing style that you may find yourself turning to the front cover, contemplating the author's name, thinking that the publishers perhaps made a typo.
The storyline can drag and be rather confusing and murky for younger readers. There are so many different viewpoints that your head will spin. All of the characters are flawed, many are nasty, and some, you can barely stand without wanting to scream.
The novel felt a little like a modern, British version of "East of Eden" about a family's tragedy told from different viewpoints, in which some of the characters are quite despicable but you are so captivated by the small-town problems that you keep reading.
My biggest concern is that Potter fans will not like this book, which is so different from the fantasy world they grew up with. Rowling should not have to write for her original fans, but still, the book sometimes felt forced, as though she was trying to distance herself too much from her other books.
I am a huge Potterhead. Did I love this book? No. Did I hate it? No. It was a fine book. On a good day, I could be lenient and give it four stars. On a bad day, probably not more than two.
On the other hand, Rowling helped a generation of children to love reading. Now those children are all grown up. So maybe, with their love of reading, Rowling fans can enjoy this book.
Alissa Roy is a senior at Springville-Griffith Institute
The Casual Vacancy
By J.K. RowlingLittle, Brown, and Co. 512 pages, $21