Why The Casual Vacancy Shouldn’t be Compared to Harry Potter

Note: This is not a book review. Just a general reaction to the general reaction surrounding The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, released last week.

Yes, I’m just as much a Potter fan as you are. And if you don’t believe me, ask my husband, who, while also a Potter enthusiast, has found many a time to laugh and roll his eyes at me for my overly-in-depth knowledge of the series.

I’ve been (naively, I suppose) surprised at the reaction I’ve seen in response to Rowling’s new book ever since its existence was first announced. Of course I knew that many people would be comparing the new book to Rowling’s admittedly history-making series, but I’ve seen everything from incredulity that she can even write anything else good to outright complaints about her new subject matter (a small English town ripped apart by a political vacancy).

I have to admit, all of the above baffles me.

To me, this is like saying that Shakespeare shouldn’t have tried writing Henry V after A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Okay, maybe that’s not a perfect analogy, but my point is this: J.K. Rowling has proven to all of us that she understands the human condition on multiple levels, that she understands social tensions and their destructive capabilities, and that she understands mortality and morality, which she herself has admitted she’s a bit obsessed with. In other words: the very thing that makes most stories tick.

I’m not “worried” about this book. I’m not skeptical as to whether or not it’s going to be “as good” as Harry Potter. It’s not Harry Potter nor is it meant to be. Me, I’m looking forward to reading something new by one of my favorite authors, whatever it is. I’ll follow you anywhere, Ms. Rowling. Just keep leading on.

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