The Casual Vacancy

I’d planned to post my review of JK Rowling’s much anticipated new book, The Casual Vacancy, today.  It was released on September 27th and it’s never taken me more than a few days to read any of her books.  Plenty of time to ooze on the praise before the blog goes to press, or so I thought.

The book has been out a full week and I’m barely two chapters into it.  What’s worse, I haven’t had any desire to pick it back up since the first time I opened it.  I actually spent two whole days sick in bed with a massive head cold and chose not to read rather than finish that book.  Unheard of.  I’ve caught up on the latest all-star season of Dancing With The Stars (Go Drew!) and pretty much every other television show I have even a mild interest in, yet could care less what happens next in that book.  How could that be when I’m in the target audience for JK Rowling’s cross over into the adult market?  I avidly read all age groups and all genres of books, with mysteries being one of my favorites in the adult market.  I expected to love this book, and was pooh-pooh-ing all the critics of a children’s author crossing over to the adult market.  So what happened?

Let me start by saying JK Rowlings is a beautiful writer, and the mechanics of this book are every bit as well-crafted as her others.  She creates such believable, flawed characters the reader can’t help but fall in love with them and feel invested in their journey.  But to me, the most amazing aspect of her Harry Potter series is the world she created.  I’m a world creator as well in my writing, and that’s what really hooks me to a series.  It doesn’t have to be the wizard world or even a fantasy world, but I’m most excited about books that don’t take place in my everyday life.

I’ll still occasionally read realistic fiction if it gets great reviews, but the one thing I’ve never had any interest in reading is realistic fiction set in modern England.  The humor is dry and goes right over my head.  The slang baffles me.  Maybe I’m the stereotypical “dumb American”, but I just don’t get it.  And that’s okay.  I’m coming to realize maybe I wasn’t in JK Rowling’s target audience after all.

Harry Potter is such a beloved children’s book character in the US that we often forget he’s not American.  Nor is JK Rowling.  Obviously an English author writing a realistic murder mystery book set in everyday English life is targeting . . . (drumroll please) . . . an English audience.  And I hope this book is a smashing success for JK Rowling in England.

Perhaps we Americans need to get over ourselves and realize the reason many of us don’t get this book is because it wasn’t written for us.  JK Rowlings never once misled us on that fact.  The title and cover art are very English.  The book jacket is clear on the genre and setting.  And JK Rowlings has stated in every interview I’ve read that this book is a very English book written for adults, not targeted towards the Harry Potter audience.  Enough said.

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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