Harry Potter’s fans have mostly grown up. But have they grown up enough for J.K. Rowling’s new book?
The beloved children’s author, you may have heard, is publishing a much-anticipated adult novel today, and word is it’s very mature.
According to the Associated Press, which nabbed a rare advance copy of “The Casual Vacancy” (Little, Brown), the book is far removed from childhood fantasy.
Characters are said to be damaged, hopeless and young. They have sex, view pornography and take drugs. The story itself, so unlike the Potter books, is said to be rooted in sad reality and is heartbreaking.
“There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher,” Rowling told the New Yorker in a piece published in its Oct. 1 issue. “I was always, I think, completely honest. I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”
That piece also predicts “Casual Vacancy” will garner a few “scandalized objections.”
(Rowling also later joked in the New Yorker interview that she would never have touched these themes in the Potter books. “The thing about fantasy — there are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.”)
The emotional tone as much as the content of this 512-page novel hardly seems the stuff of bestsellers. The book has topped Amazon’s bestselling list, then, and will become another publishing extravaganza, because of its author — or rather, because of the fans of her previous work.
The variables at the heart of Rowling’s transition, however, are the parents.
Quite a few of them became fans of the Potter books alongside their kids and surely many of them plan to buy the book for themselves. Will they feel betrayed by Rowling? If not, will they allow their children to read the book?
This is an author, after all, who is largely credited with reigniting a love of reading for an entire generation. Some of those fans are young adults now and can handle this material. But some are still in the Potter demographic.
Will this new book usher those young fans into the next phase of their literary adventures, or will parents feel Rowling has delivered to them too much too soon?
After all, kids find a way of reading what they want to, even if — especially if — it’s off-limits.
What’s your take on “Casual Vacancy”?