Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

OH MY GOD  I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I can’t believe it’s OVER!

This entire series is amazing. Seriously, it’s not just hype. It’s crazy how good the books are.

(Spoiler alert, proceed with caution.)

In book seven, we as readers really get to see the strength of not just Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but everyone at Hogwarts and in the Order. As I mentioned in my review of the sixth book, their support structures are gone. The stakes have reached their climax–it’s their last shot to defeat Voldemort.

I’d like to focus on two reveals that played out in this book: a deeper understanding of Dumbldore’s past, and Snape’s true colors.

First, the insight Rowling provided into the nooks and crannies of Dumbledore’s childhood. As Harry learned mismatched facts about his mentor’s youth, he was forced to reevaluate his firm belief in Dumbledore’s goodness. This further pushed Harry to stand on his own and grow into his own person. Still, he remained loyal, endearing him to me with his true Gryffindor spirit. (I’ll stop talking before I sound exactly like Dumbledore.)

Second, the reveal of Snape’s undying loyalty to Dumbledore. Forget what I said in my review of book six–J.K. Rowling is even better at lying to her readers than I imagined. So I look like an idiot again–but I’m still okay with it. The characterization driving the complex dynamic between Snape, Harry, and Dumbledore is fascinating in its complexity and its realism.

Really, I can’t think of anything else to say that I haven’t said already in previous posts. The seventh book was the ultimate ending to the series, tying up loose ends, strengthening characters and their bonds, and finally defeating the evil that had followed Harry through the previous six installments.

The epilogue was perfection. There’s nothing more to say.

The Harry Potter books showcase some of the most well-done characterization I’ve ever read. Rowling’s gift for creating twisting, complex plots is breathtaking. The emotion both written into the book and that they inspire is powerful and heart-wrenching.

They’re gorgeous. I’m so glad I reread them, and I know this won’t be the last time I crack open their covers.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

I loved Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. One of my favorites of the series. Perfectly plotted, and a continuation of the great character development set up from the start.

(Warning: MAJOR plot spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.)

J.K. Rowling is a master at deceiving her readers. Even with the second chapter of the book spelling out Snape’s betrayal of the Order, I was convinced that he was a triple agent, still loyal to Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s complete trust of Severus was infectious. Also, Harry’s past, wrong beliefs that teachers and students he hated were evil kept me from really believing his most recent accusations. Even when Snape killed Dumbledore, I tried to find a loophole, a way the Killing Curse could have been faked.

I was an idiot.

But I was an idiot at the expense of incredible writing, so I’m okay with it.

What I love about this series, but especially the sixth book, is how fallible the characters are. Of course, all stories contain such characters, but Rowling spared none of hers this fate. While many authors would have felt compelled to make the professors at Hogwarts infallible adult figures who were obeyed on principle, Rowling understood the plot depth she could harness if they were in fact the opposite. Harry is loyal to the school and its (not evil) teachers, but he is more loyal to his personal beliefs and his gut instincts. This keeps him safe as his peers and his mentors fall.

It is refreshing to have an adult author write so plainly about adults’ misunderstanding and underestimating of youth. I’m a teenager; I know what it’s like to realize an adult has no respect for me, only the cookie cutter stereotype of “teenagers” that society has chosen. To see great wizards humbled by lesser youths is uplifting, and I hope many adults recognize their own flaws in the failings of the adults in the Harry Potter universe.

I love the insight we gain into Voldemort in this book. He used to be a simple, imposing Evil–terrifying by his legacy alone. He was a monster, and rightfully so, but in this book, we see the man…and we understand him. What was once a random rampage of evil is unearthed. Even his heartless nature is explained with the splintering his soul endured to create six Horocruxes. Young Voldemort is almost more frightening than the one alive in the present story. We watch him coolly, intentionally become evil. We have to accept that he chose this path, deliberately. His need for power, lack of friends, desire to cause pain–they are all rooted in his past, and when we learn of their causes, we feel sickly close to the Dark Lord. This is terrifying. Rowling did an incredible job with these plot reveals, using them to test the bond between Dumbledore and Harry, set of the end of the series, and get her readers closer to her villain than we ever wanted.

Harry and Ginny’s relationship in this book added a needed burst of happiness. They’re perfect for each other. Even with Harry’s (stupid) need to be a hero and “break things off” with her, I know they can’t stay apart. Even if I didn’t remember the ending, I would believe this. (Screw the realistic romance I mentioned in my review of book four–they are soul mates and I LOVE it.)

J.K. Rowling’s gift for characterization is breathtaking. She captures personas we’ve all met and brings them to life effortlessly on the page. We understand every action they take, including their failures, because of the characters she has created. Slughorn’s pride, Snape’s hatred of Harry, Voldemort’s power-hunger–in understanding them, we are drawn into the story. As the series lengthens and teaches more and more about every character involved, my emotional commitment to the series grows, leaving me sobbing during Dumbledore’s funeral.

I think Dumbledore’s death was, though painful, necessary. Harry has slowly lost every one of his support structures: Sirius Black, Dumbledore, his faith in Hogwarts’ impenetrability. Looking in the seventh book, with a clear goal of destroying the Horocruxes and Voldemort himself, Harry must finally face the world without an adult’s watchful eye keeping him safe. By losing Dumbledore, he lost his safety net. Had he not, the seventh book would not be as powerful. The stakes have to be as high as possible–Harry has to be alone. Sure, he has his friends, but even that is tested, and they are his same age and (basically) skill level. They are youth against the vast evilness of the world, what the series has been building up to.

Of course I cried when Dumbledore died. But after all of the botched, unnecessary character deaths I’ve read, I appreciate a character dying for a reason, not just a body count.

It’s clear J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing when she wrote this series. She can write, and I love that.

I’m halfway through the seventh book now. I can’t believe this series is going to end. It’s kinda killing me.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

I really loved Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.

(Warning: there will be plot spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t read this book and want to, please refrain from finishing this)

The premise of this book was perfect. As the series shifts from MG to YA, Harry learns of the Order, a group of adults who will fight against Voldemort, but isn’t allowed to join. The juxtaposition of being powerful and smart but still considered a “child” is powerful, bringing out emotions not just in the protagonists, but in the reader. Harry’s frustration is palpable, relatable to anyone who has tried to walk through an open door only to have it slammed in their face. Especially as a teenager, facing situations in which some adults treat me with respect and others still see me as a child, Harry’s struggle with the Order is familiar, captured beautifully by J.K. Rowling.

What struck me most about this book in the series was how realistic it is. While the other books did have realistic social elements sewn into the mystical plot, this book portrays a vividly realistic account of the pressure and awkwardness of high school. The pressure of OWL years and the ensuing amount of homework is true in any school (even without complex wizarding exams). The way Harry and Ron procrastinate their massive amounts of homework is even more realistic, a trap even the best students can fall into.

The romance between Harry and Cho is awkward and tentative, and comes off extremely high-school-y. This isn’t a story written for the romance, but as with any group of teenagers crammed together for a year, flings and couples do appear. J.K. Rowling managed to add romance to her series without losing the focus of the novel, something other authors have dramatically failed to do. I respect her also for making the coupling–because there are others–tense and awkward, instead of the born-for-each-other, instant romance of most books that involve this sort of thing. This is real romance, playing out in the background of stressful schoolwork and larger issues, the kind that actually happens, instead of some perfect, soul mate romance seen in other series. (Don’t get me wrong, I love reading that kind of romance. But in this series, it was refreshing to see that the realism of the series wasn’t sacrificed for a few bonus points with an older audience.) Harry Potter is still about magic and triumph and sacrifice–but the addition of romance added to the realistic-ness of the series.

And then there is Dolores Umbridge. She is a fantastic evil character, something I appreciate. She is every horrible teacher you have ever had–but moreover, she feels like a bad substitute teacher. All of the jaw-clenchingly horrible things she does come off as the actions of a power-hungry sub, while the rest of the students suffer because they know what the class is supposed to feel like. This highlights the loyalty Harry’s peers feel to past teachers, and actually learning the subject.

Umbridge is the ultimate red-tape character. She is an evil none of the students know how to fight–a corrupt government. Every move Harry would make to undermine her is countered with a bureaucratic sweep of her pen. In this way, Umbridge is not only keeping Harry from enjoying his time at Hogwarts, she is also (unintentionally) aiding Voldemort in his rise to power by containing the people trying to stop him. She is frustrating. She is the perfect antagonist–and I LOVE her.

The creation of the D.A.–Dumbledore’s Army–adds a level of solidarity to the Hogwarts peers. Whereas before it was just Harry, Ron, and Hermoine who united against the approaching evil, now there is a group. This is the first step toward the unity Dumbledore–and the Sorting Hat–begged for. And for Harry, who has experienced very little loyalty or faith in his years at the school, this is a turning point, proving to him that he is strong enough to be a leader. Ironically, this show of strength was spurred into existence by Umbridge, so that her lasting legacy in the school is one of unity, not brokenness.

I loved Fred and George’s exit from the school. It was hilarious and perfect and I don’f feel like I need to talk about it much, because it was basically awesome.

The climax of the fifth book was really intense. I haven’t read this book since I was really young so I had no idea what was going to happen–and I was terrified. Serius’s death was almost too sudden for me; it wasn’t until the whole ordeal was over and Harry was trying to cope with it that the loss really struck me. However, the rest of the Order survived, and the book ended on a hopeful note for the group.

The fifth Harry Potter was emotionally moving in its realism and uplifting in its triumph over evil.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I liked Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. I’m not sure I liked it as much as the others, but it’s good.

(Spoiler alert: from this point on, there will be direct references to specific parts of the book’s plot, so if you haven’t read it yet and plan to, stop reading now.)

The premise of the book is interesting. By incorporating the Tri Wizard Tournament into the plot, J.K. Rowling continued worldbuilding, adding to the complexity of the wizarding world. Since the first book, most plot reveals had gone toward a greater understanding Harry’s and Voldemort’s past. This, while important, left the actual world of wizards fairly small: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Platform 9 3/4, the Borough, and the implied existence of the Ministry of Magic. However, with the Quidditch World Cup and the Tournament, Rowling vastly expanded our knowledge and understanding of wizards’ life outside of Hogwarts. I think this added perspective that the series needed, especially as the characters age and grow less dependent on their school.

The structure of the plot is reminiscent of the quest model seen often in middle grade novels. Much like in a hidden object computer game, one accomplished task brings the protagonist to the next task, to the next one. All of the books in the series so far have had similar plot structures, born from the construct of the series: the obligatory time with the Dursleys, the return to school, the buildup, and then the climax at the end of the term. This is forgivable, of course, because each plot itself is different, and as a series set at a boarding school, this is an inevitable design. However, book four takes this model one step farther, adding in a series of three tasks. This divides the book into periods of action and then lulls as the plot builds up to the next burst of drama. While the book is still an enjoyable read, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes off more disjointed than the previous three, and coupled with its length (734 pages in my copy), makes it a slower read. I can understand why many people I’ve talked to got stuck in the middle, bored, in the sandtrap that was the lulls in the otherwise dramatic plot.

J.K. Rowling could have done a better job characterizing the rest of the school champions taking part in the tournament. I got the basic impression of each one, but nothing more complex, which is strange coming from Rowling, who usually puts a lot of effort into her characters. The other champions–Fleur, Krum, and Cedric–were pivotal characters, and I would have liked for them to have more than their obvious characteristics.

I’ve talked a lot about the things I didn’t like about this book, but I want to be clear on the fact that I did like this book.

Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort at the end of the novel was my favorite Harry/Voldemort clash so far. It played with the connection the two share, juxtaposing it with the enmity between them. This promises even more dramatic confrontations in the future. In addition, the climax was darker than any other seen so far, revealing that the series is ready to leave the middle grade genre behind and enter the more twisted YA one in the remaining three books.

If the first book was an exposition for the next two, I believe the fourth book was another exposition, setting up the greater conflicts that will occur in the rest of the series. There is a noticeable shift in the plot’s focus, from the small world of Hogwarts to the larger world of magic entirely. The ending of the novel, as Dumbledore gathers his closest friends to work against the stubborn Ministry, hurtles the reader into the next book. It is clear from those last pages that things are officially larger than Harry, and that the future holds more danger and darkness than he could have imagined.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book so far. Plot, characters, reveals, voice–everything was done amazingly well.

(Warning: Since I’m reviewing each Harry Potter individually, there will be spoilers about a book’s plot in its review. So if you haven’t read this one, and you want to, stop reading now.)

The good/evil mystery surrounding Sirius Black was fascinating. I’ve read the series before, so I knew that he ended up being a good guy, but in the beginning of the novel, I was doubting my memory. J.K. Rowling toyed with her readers by making trusted adult characters (namely Dumbledore and other teachers) believe the original story about Sirius and Peter Pettigrew. Unlike in the previous two books, where Dumbledore seemed to be omnisciently working in the background to help Harry and his friends succeed, he actually becomes a hindrance in his need to keep Harry “safe” from Sirius. This forced Harry, Ron and Hermione to mature, counting on themselves instead of adults. As with the last two books, the story’s voice kept the same feeling but aged with the protagonists. The characters continued to grow and learn, and the reader sees unknown sides of the characters: Harry’s skill at magic with his Patronus, Ron’s loyalty to Scabbers, and Hermione’s need for facts when she storms out of her Divination class. The side plot of Hagrid and Buckbeak helped develop characters and demonstrate that the Ministry of Magic isn’t necessarily the good guys.

The one thing that stood out to me about this book was J.K. Rowling’s command of the little details. While most authors are content to reveal their secrets when they want, maybe citing a few, notable scenes as buildup, Rowling’s novels are littered with small scenes and offhanded remarks that end up tying together into massive plot lines. This skill is the mark of a dedicated author, showing that she actually deserves all the hype about her books (while some popular authors today seem to value dramatic plot and even more dramatic romance over literary merit). Especially rereading the series, but without a full memory of the plots’ exact points, these details drag me into the story as I piece together her dropped hints with my own vague memory of the story.

Book Review: The Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter

OMG. These books are my life.

I’ve read the first four books probably six or seven times. I’ve read the fifth one three times. I’ve read the sixth one twice. (The number of times I’ve read them has to do with the time span between each book being published.)

Seriously words cannot describe how much I love these books. But I’ll try.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, Out of Sight, Out of Time, United We Spy

I know what you’re thinking: They look cheesy. Like, Domino’s pizza cheesy.

That’s what I thought. They kept coming up the Scholastic book orders that they send home in elementary school. Based on their middle grade covers (which I am now IN LOVE WITH) and the infamously cliche blurb in the book order, I scorned them, lumping them in with the rest of the cheap, badly written, underdeveloped stories promoted in the pamphlets.

My mom bought me the first one as a gag gift, part of a massive pile of books she got for me the Christmas of fourth grade (I think…might have been 5th). I laughed at her. But I decided to try it.

Probably one of the best decisions  of my life. Not a hyperbole.

These books…are made great by a lot of things:


I fell for the characters in this book. The group of girls (and the occasional boy) are lovable, imperfect, strong, dynamic, loyal–perfect, basically. You know when a book has a tight group of characters, and you love them together, and you don’t just want them to survive, you need them to stay together? That’s Cammie, Bex, Lix, and Macey.


Sure, the first book’s plot revolves around a guy (Josh). It’s hard to make a case that romance doesn’t drive the first book. But the lessons Cammie learns from Josh push her way past him in the rest of the series. As the story progresses, romance drops to the back of the plot. It’s still there (and sooooooooooo cute and perfect and–can you tell I like these books a bit?). But Ally Carter let her series revolve around her girl characters and their growth as individuals. Romance is a mechanism working in the background, love interests showing up to add reveals and tension and trust issues (mostly trust issues). They look like ChickLit. But they aren’t. They are so much more. I didn’t want to read cheesy spy books about girls being idiots over guys.

Guess what? These books weren’t that.


I thought the books would be cheesy. And I was mostly wrong, but a little bit right.

There are some ridiculous moments. There are some hyperbolic elements, that some people would associate with the middle grade age range. Frankly, these are a lot of what I love about the books. They’re funny and light-hearted. They’re popcorn books, which is why I read them basically every finals season. They de-stress me.

But for every random outburst that could make the books slip back into the cursed middle grade ChickLIt (yeah I really don’t like most of what this genre has to offer), there is a moment that pulls it back. The plots of the later books actually get pretty dark, so even though certain scenes always make me laugh, the series can’t be thrown in with the rest of the fluffy, empty books of the Scholastic book orders.


Ally Carter’s first published books were adult romance. I haven’t read them, but I’m sure they’re good.

So when she went to write for a younger audience, she sort of…over-corrected. The first book is pretty chessy. It’s romance based. It’s middle grade. I understand why it was in the book order. But the characterization is there. Looking at it with the rest of the series, it’s a giant exposition, a foundation for the later plot points.

The second book is more mature. The plot is darker. Less cheese, more subtle romance, stronger characters.

As the series progresses, you can feel Carter growing. She gets more comfortable with her cast of characters and the world she’s built. The plots get more intense, while still retaining the humor and some of the ridiculousness from the earlier books. The connections between the characters grow and are tested. By the time the series ends, it is solidly YA–and it makes you weep. But…spoilers.

It’s gorgeous. Seriously. Usually, when authors do something like this, (make their series shift tonally in the middle), they do it badly. See James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series. But Ally Carter managed to balance discovering herself as a YA author and staying true to the heart of her works. The Gallagher Girl books all fit together. They are a series. But they are also a testament to the power of an author that learns as they write.


Try them out. Don’t let a cover and a corny title scare you off. Learn to love the things you scorned.

I don’t care if you’re ten or sixty. These books are worth reading. They’ll make you smile. They’ll make you cry. They’ll stick with you.


(Also check out Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. They are equally awesome.)

Book Review: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Wow….this book is…sort of crazy.

It’s amazing, first of all. Incredibly unique. It is a photographic novel–basically there are actual photographs worked into the story and printed in the novel. I don’t know if other people have done this before but this one (a collaboration between David Levithan, the author, and Jonathan Farmer, the photographer) is breathtaking. I’m not sure what the genre name is but I’d say psychological contemporary–not sure if that exists. It’s real life with a slightly-mentally-unstable narrator dealing with the traumatizing and mysterious absence of his best friend.

The writing is perfect. It captures the mental state of the narrator, dragging you into the scattered, damaged psyche. The novel is powerful and insightful and really well done. Dark and fast-paced. Also, short–I read it in a couple of hours. I literally did not put in down until I finished it.

The book is dark. In dragging you into the mind of the narrator it takes over your own mind. The plot is downright creepy. If you have read Susan Vaught’s Freaks Like Us (which is also amazing), it’s like that. If you’ve read Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne, it’s like that, but better. Just, be warned. But if you like that sort of thing–read it.

P.S. David Levithan’s other book, Every Day, is amazing as well. Less creepy. Just as intense. SOOO worth reading.


Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle is the fifth book by Rachel Hawkins I have read and I have to say–I love this author. This one is the beginning of a new series and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK. (Her other series are the Hex Hall series and their spin-off School Spirits. Read them, too.) All of her books are in the same vein: light-hearted sort-of-paranormal-romance with a healthy side of teenage, high school drama. Her command of voice is refreshing and comforting. All of her plots are fast-paced, a little ridiculous, and fun. When I saw this book was being released, I had to buy it.

Rebel Bell is a fun read. It’s quick (it took me two days, even with school) and an easy read, what I like to call a “popcorn” book (because you can burn through them quickly like you’re eating popcorn…I don’t know…I’m weird). The characters are alive and the conflicts between them are at once both hilarious and heart-wrenching. The plot is Buffy the Vampire Slayer if Buffy was a valedictorian. And Southern. The romance is awkward in a perfect way.

Read it. And the rest of Rachel Hawkins books. They are the perfect easy reads to enjoy between long, emotional, dark and depressing ones. Which is good, because I also like to read long-emotional-dark-depressing ones, and books like these keep me from losing my mind. 🙂