The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Based on the tepid reviews I've seen for this book, I thought I'd end up with pretty mixed feelings for it as well. So no one is more surprised than I to find myself on here after I'd finished this, contemplating giving it five stars.

I almost didn't want to, because while it's true I could barely put this book down after I started it, I almost feel like I liked it for all the wrong reasons. I devoured it with the fervor of someone sitting down to their favorite soap opera with a bowl of popcorn, because that's the best way I can think of to describe my almost perverse addiction to this book.

While I'll also agree that she's got an incredible imagination and is absolutely fantastic at world building, to me, J.K. Rowling's strength will always be the way she writes her characters. There are a great many of them in this book, and it'll probably take you a while to get them and their relationships all sorted out. Once I did, however, I was amazed to find myself interested in all of them.

Usually, in books with multiple points of view, one or two characters would jump out at me, while the rest would sort of feel like filler. Somehow, I found everyone in this novel equally fascinating, and yet none of them are particularly likeable people (some more abhorrent than others) and all of them are messed up in some way. I think that's it, really; it's like their lives are each these individual train wrecks I couldn't peel my eyes away from.

Is that a good enough reason to give a book five stars? Well, to me it is, though it makes this novel feel almost like a guilty pleasure. I know this book was trying to say a lot of things, among them commenting on societal issues, life and death, truth vs. hypocrisy, etc. but I have to admit it was mostly all the drama in the characters' lives that I ate up with shameless zeal.

Also, I think most people are curious to know what an adult book written by the author of Harry Potter would be like. Here's the thing, it's almost like Rowling was trying to make the point to get as far away from Harry Potter and children's books as possible. This book is gritty, a little dark, and deals with some pretty heavy topics like sex, drugs, addiction, rape, domestic violence, poverty, racism, child abuse, and that's just a small sampling.

Rowling described A Casual Vacancy as a "tragicomedy". I honestly didn't find any of it particularly funny, but then again, I would hardly consider myself an expert on British humor. It's certainly tragic though, so at least she's got that part down. Thematically speaking, this is a pretty heavy book, and downright depressing in places.

If you know you normally wouldn't pick up or enjoy a book like this, you probably won't like this one either. If you've read the description for this book and don't find yourself interested, and yet still want to pick it up just because it's by J.K. Rowling, I would strongly recommend against it. Most of the disappointed reviews I've seen so far seem to be from readers comparing it Harry Potter, expecting the same kind of magic, either literally or figuratively, from The Casual Vacancy. But it's just not that kind of book.

If you read this, it might be best just to pretend the author never wrote the Harry Potter books, which was somewhat easier for me to do since it's been years since I read them, but I knew even after reading a bunch of mixed reviews I wanted to give this book a fair and unbiased shot. In the end, I'm glad I did.