Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Age Category: 14 to 19 years +
I plan to review the seventh and last of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
Harry Potter Books: Summary
In the previous installment of the Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)
As a result of the botched attempt to obtain the prophecy, Voldemort’s bid for power has become public knowledge, and the (unconfirmed but true) rumor on the street is that Harry Potter is “The Chosen One,” i.e., “the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord.” This is where the story of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
A further result of the botched attempt is that Voldemort is furious with the Death-Eater-captain of the failed operation, Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry’s arch-rival at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Draco Malfoy. Since Lucius has been imprisoned, Voldemort uses the son to get back at the father, giving Draco a mysterious and dangerous mission while back at Hogwarts. But what is his mission?
The other central plot line of this sixth of the Harry Potter books involves private lessons Harry receives from Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and Dumbledore’s periodic secret excursions from the school. Where is Dumbledore going? What is he doing? Why is his hand so badly burned? And what does the Half-Blood Prince have to do with any of it? The climax of this book yields the sharpest and most shocking plot-twist of the all the Harry Potter books: not to be missed!
Subjective Appeal: Action-Packed Story, Teenage Romance
In my view, the central subjective appeal of the sixth of the Harry Potter books is its storyline. Everything about the story is complex, inviting the reader to study its depths. First, its characters are manifold and psychologically realistic; Rowling even probes the twisted psychology of Voldemort in this book. This thorough development of “the bad guy” is rare and interesting for a children’s book. Second, the book’s plot is bursting with subplots, each of which dovetails seamlessly with the overall plot of the book and the series as a whole. Rowling masterfully wraps in plot-lines from prior Harry Potter books and sets up the grand plot-line culminating in the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
One thing that sets this story apart from prior Harry Potter books is the place of intense action and drama. Although the uptick in these is perhaps only incremental from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)
Just as the intense action and drama is suitable for teens, so the relational themes in this sixth of the Harry Potter books are mature in a way that will capture teenagers. Specifically, at age sixteen the characters in the book are now firmly entrenched in the world of romance and dating, and the relational tensions that entails. For example, the beginning of Ron’s fling with Lavender Brown is described thus: “There, in full view of the whole room, stood Ron wrapped so closely around Lavender Brown it was hard to tell whose hands were whose. ‘It looks like he’s eating her face, doesn’t it?’ said Ginny dispassionately. ‘But, I suppose he’s got to refine his technique somehow’” (p. 300). Rowling obviously brings a heavy dose of humor to her descriptions of teen romance, which will also appeal.
Developmental Value: Lessons in Romance, Ethics, and Religion
The insistent battle between good and evil also contributes to the developmental value of the book. As for the other Harry Potter books, the dominant moral lesson is clear: evil is to be confronted at all costs. One worry is that Harry commits a shockingly horrible act at one point in the book, casting a spell on Draco Malfoy that nearly kills him (p. 522-523). However, several things ameliorate his transgression. First, Harry is soundly punished (p. 528-529). Second, his misdeed was (mostly) in the service of his effort to foil Malfoy’s dark mission. Third, he had never previously used the spell he cast and thus did not know its effects (he read it from the Half-Blood Prince’s book). Thus, his intention was not to kill Malfoy, evidenced by his own shock and cry of “No!” immediately upon seeing the effect of the spell. Moreover, it is important for children to see moral failings in protagonists: teens can better identify with morally flawed characters, and can thereby learn from their negative example.
Finally, for teens that are religiously oriented, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
In short, I highly recommend Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)
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