Book 4! The first book that I had to scramble to finish before the end of the month, because I'd forgotten how big it was. Also the first book that I haven't seen the corresponding movie for, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on the differences (if you've seen both)
This book was LONG.
And once again, Hermione spends some time in the infirmary, though blissfully not a giant chunk of the book. Though her using-magic-to-fix-her-teeth trick seems to bring up another quibble about the magic system. Why would anyone be ugly in a magical world?
I recall multiple instances throughout the books where people try to fix the spots on their faces. Teeth growth/shrinkage is fixable, but acne still hasn't been handled?
Anyway, I still loved this book. I remember it being my favorite the first time through, and for all the same reasons, I enjoyed SO much of it. Every challenge he faced as part of the Triwizard Tournament was exceptionally well done and exciting. The culmination in the fight with Voldemort? Edge of my seat reading, even knowing how it went.
My quibbles in this book included the fact that it had not one but THREE info-dumps at the end. (for the non-writers in the group, that's when you explain something using giant chunks of text) You had Voldemort monologuing first, followed by Mad-Eye, and then Dumbledore.
Worst? You needed every single one of those to fully understand what had already happened in the book. Even knowing it was Mad-Eye from a previous reading, I still had no clues as I read the book that he was anyone other than who he seemed, or that Winky was helping an invisible person around. Especially with the Bagman interferences.
There were a LOT of storylines in this one, and I loved that George and Fred Weasley got a lot of airtime, but their quest to get their joke shop up and running didn't quite mesh with the rest of the story and felt tacked on.
This book definitely brought in more serious stuff, though. Anyone remember Perry commenting on how horrifying the Polyjuice potion would be in real life? Looks like Rowling realized that as well, and used it very effectively here. We knew not only about Polyjuice but also invisibility cloaks and animagus before this book even began, and still had no clue what was going on. And each was used to show the darker side of their application in magic, which I appreciated.
I did not like the Rita Skeeter or the SPEW sub-plots. Skeeter is another paper-thin villain who exists simply to be vile. SPEW was an excellent thing to point out -- the unfair treatment of the house elves? But it went on for so long and never actually had any payoff or purpose. I'd have liked it better, for example, if Hermione started listening to the elves and simply protested their treatment, thus helping Winky and somehow unveiling some of those plot points that were otherwise just heaved on us during the info dumps.
Snape, on the other hand? Really got to show something other than being a terrible human being, and I enjoyed his scenes quite a lot. Especially the bit at the end where he revealed his Death Eater mark.
Also, many people point to the death of Diggory as the "turning point" in the series, the indicator that it was going to be more young adult and less middle grade.
While that's true, and the entire scene (including the repeated use of the cruciatus curse) was dark and appropriately horrific?
Nothing beats the awful, terrible sensation I felt when I read that Neville's parents are not only alive, he visits them regularly and they don't recognize him. The author put in a line about how Harry thought that all the orphan sympathy should go to Neville, and then the matter was dropped.
I just. I know that kids probably wouldn't carry that forward, but to just idly toss it into the book without fully utilizing it really hit me. THAT was the worst, most adult-oriented thing I saw in the book, because I don't remember even noticing it when I read the books the previous time.
A Brief Note on Ronald Weasley
I came across this link and I honestly think it is TOP notch. Far more deserving of reading than my yammering.
I will say that my understanding of just how important Ron is to Harry was cemented in this book. Ron is more than just Harry's best friend. Ron is Harry's rock, his anchor in the wizarding world. For all that Harry is the hero and "popular" at school, he doesn't actually have many friends. He doesn't put himself out there the way a normal kid might.
He picked the same classes as Ron in a previous book and that bothered me, but now I see that Harry wouldn't even want to be in a class he didn't share with Ron. Nothing mattered to him, so long as he was with his friend.
That's a pretty powerful thing and I thought their disagreement in this book did a lot to cement that. (It'd be nice if one of the plotlines of future books didn't always have to be "two thirds of the group have an argument and stop talking to each other until someone apologizes", though it's not a bad lesson to have in a book aimed at kids. Disagreements happen, even with totally wonderful people, and apologies are important.)
Anyway, that's all I've got for today. What are YOUR thoughts?