And Harry Potter and all his wizard friends went straight to hell

An informal book review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
I finished the biggest book ever (in more ways than one) this weekend, and I had a few thoughts. Eventually I might refine this into a real review, but for now this is all I can manage.

The money and power has gone to their head. The publishers of Harry Potter have such a phenomenon on their hands that they’ve gotten sloppy. They’ve given J. K. Rowling too much freedom, and she’s beginning to waver. Now hear me out, I’m not trying to rip the book apart. I liked it. But I think like so many sequels and prequels, it’s fallen short.

I think the editors gave Rowling the freedom to write what she wants, and since she’s made them millions, they didn’t bother to subject The Order of the Phoenix to the same editorial rigor that most books are subjected to. The result is not bad grammar or weak spots, but instead a plot that flows where it wants, unfettered by the restraints of sanity and good judgment. She wrote an 800 page novel for goodness sake. You don’t do that for a reason. It takes 200 pages before Harry even returns to school, and nothing worth one quarter of the book happens in that first quarter.

This freedom has let the story wander, and unless I’m mistaken and Rowling plans to chase down those stray fragments in parts six and seven, I think this is a classic genius blunder. She knows what she’s doing, let’s not edit her like we did for the first books. Bad idea. Every writer needs to be edited.

The story wasn’t a let down, but it could have been more. I’ve heard some people say that the unedited fun is great–who wouldn’t want more time in the Harry Potter world? Tromping around in the fantasy is great, but only if it serves the story. In this case I think it just makes for a fatter book.

On the bright side, Rowling is letting her characters go through adolescence, which is as painful to read as it is to live through. Harry is such a dork sometimes. At times I think Rowling is letting her characters grow in stereotypically teenager ways, but I think for the most part she’s doing a good job.

What’s amazing about this series is that there’s a generation of kids growing up with Harry Potter. And it’s not like Star Wars where the characters may learn and grow, but we don’t see them age along with us (though I suppose with the pre-quels we’re seeing some regression). Some kids starting reading Harry Potter when they were the same age as Harry. As Harry goes through puberty, so are they.

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