Why J.K. Rowling’s adult, totally not for children books are OK by me

Rowling

Jo has come a long way from the days of Harry Potter. It’s weird to think that one of the biggest children’s writers of our time is now catering to adults, but it’s happening, and it’s probably not going to stop.

When I read 2013’s suburbia novel The Casual Vacancy, which J.K. Rowling wrote several years after children’s book The Tales of Beedle the Bard (a spin-off from the Potter line), I was surprised at how literally the author seemed to construe the term “adult readership.” The book is good, and it mellows out a bit, but I felt like Rowling was trying to cram as much mature content into the opening as she possibly could. Name a dirty topic, and she was making it a character trait.

Now I’m in the middle of reading A Cuckoo’s Calling* (which, hey, is getting a sequel in June), a crime-detective mystery that she published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. After how much flack she got for the rather brash Casual Vacancy, it makes sense that the poor woman would choose to bury the Rowling name with the Harry Potter series and start anew.

Last year in July, Rowling went on record saying, “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Can you blame her? Maybe it’s because of critics’ quotes like this one from Bloomberg: “Imagine Harry Potter with nothing but Muggles — mean, graceless people without a trace of magic. It would be a dull book indeed.”

The Casual Vacancy is not a perfect book. I think it’s terribly flawed in the beginning, like Rowling was trying too hard to leave Harry behind and rewrite everyone’s notion of her as this charming British lady who writes about wizards and magic and young adulthood. Remember, this is the same woman who killed off — OK wait, spoiler alert from 2007 — Hedwig for no reason other than to teach children that our friends die (seriously, read the quote at the front of the book). I thought the rest of Casual Vacancy was quite wonderful. It’s just not something you’d read to your kids.

It’s wrong of us to expect Rowling to keep writing children’s fiction just because of her earlier success. If she needs to ditch her name and adopt a pseudonym to get us to drop the incessant comparisons to Harry Potter and why The Casual Vacancy and A Cuckoo’s Calling aren’t Harry Potter, then more power to her.

She’s a writer. Let her write. If you don’t like it, go reread Sorcerer’s Stone — and shush.

*More on Cuckoo’s Calling from me soon.

Awesome book cover Friday: The Casual Vacancy

I really love the cover for the new paperback version of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy paperback

What do you think? It’s so sleek and pristine, which is the public face but not the reality of the town of Pagford. The Casual Vacancy is Rowling’s “adult” book, and boy, is it ever. It’s all about hypocrites, gossip, relationships, and societal life. Read my review and check out the original cover here.

An ‘adult’ adult novel: a review of The Casual Vacancy

Their reward for enduring the awful experience was the right to tell people about it.

The Casual VacancyMany of us don’t bother with age labels when selecting a book. After all, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is filed under children’s books but engages all types. We like what we like.

While Harry Potter can suit anyone, Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is designed to target adults — readers who can handle large amounts of mature content. Rowling interprets a literal meaning from the term “adult novel,” writing as crudely as she can by tossing in a great cast of characters that allows her to broach as many issues as possible: adultery, molestation, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, bullying, sexual deviation, homosexuality, physical abuse, depression, racial prejudice, and so on. The list is a long one.

It’s almost like she set out to prove she’s more than a children’s author. She seems to say, “I can be nasty. I can be dirty. I’m not so fragile.”

Continue reading “An ‘adult’ adult novel: a review of The Casual Vacancy”

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #3

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy MLK Day! It’s Monday again, which means it’s time to share my latest endeavors. Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to talk about what books you’re reading in the comments.

Penguin LostWhat I’ve been reading

I polished off The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith (review here) and the Russian novel Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. More on that this week! In short, it’s good and depressing at the same time — so one of “those” books.

I know there’s a sequel, so I’m going to have to read that because I flew through this one.

That makes two books so far for what’s looking like a very busy 2013. :)

What I’m reading now

Here I come, The Casual Vacancy! Yay! I’ve been looking forward to this one.

BoneshakerWhat I plan to read next

February is around the corner, which means I need to read a historical mystery for the Eclectic Reader Challenge. Not sure yet what I’m going to pick. Any suggestions?

I need to squeeze in The Fault in Our Stars next month, too. LONG OVERDUE. And I want to read Boneshaker since I came across that recently.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #2

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s that time again, folks! Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to talk about what books you’re reading in the comments.

I took a trip to Half-Price Books over the weekend and found Cherie Priest’s sci-fi novel Boneshaker. The girl at the register couldn’t stop raving over it, so here’s hoping it lives up to the hype.

What I’ve been reading

I finished and reviewed a book for Kirkus Indie (I can’t reveal the name of it because of confidentiality reasons, unfortunately), and that’s about it. This week has been crazy busy, and I’m way too addicted to my new iPad Mini. I need to settle down with a book this evening. :)

The numbers are in. How many books did you read in 2012? I read 46 total, surpassing my goal of 40. Some of them were for Kirkus, but 30 are viewable on my Goodreads page. In 2011, I read 16 fewer books. This year, I’m aiming for 55. Are you setting a goal?

What I’m reading now

The Jazz CageOh, yeah — The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith! I almost forgot I had started that!

The story is a historical twist on the Civil War and Roaring Twenties, so while it’s not exactly the type of book I usually go for, it’s good so far. I still have a long way to go, though.

This is Smith’s second but first commercial book, and you can visit his website here.

What I plan to read next

Death and the PenguinUntil I receive another Kirkus book for review, and once I finish The Jazz Cage, I’ll be moving on to Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (my first pick for the Eclectic Reader challenge’s translated fiction requirement) and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling for my book club meeting in February.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)