My 2 cents:
The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling's new fiction novel for adults, and was published in September, 2012. Young adults who grew up reading the Harry Potter books are, no doubt, thrilled to have a new book by Rowling to read. Late to the Harry Potter phenomenon, I recently tore through The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets (Years 1 and 2 of the Harry Potter series). I loved reading and talking with my daughter about muggles and wands, Hogwarts, Hermoine and Ron, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid and the magical holiday feasts. I loved it all. The Casual Vacancy is no sequel to Harry Potter, obviously.
Which is not to say it's bad. But it is different. The best thing about The Casual Vacancy is the writing. I read one reviewer's opinion that Rowling's new novel “has no magic,” but that's not entirely true. The writing is superb. The plot opens in a way familiar to Harry Potter fans – with a death. Specifically, the sudden, unexpected death of Barry Fairweather, a well-loved town council member in small Pagford, England. Who will fill his spot? His best friend, Colin Wall? His rival's son, Miles Mollison? Or Andrew Price's abusive father, Simon?
Readers learn about the private lives of Pagford's richest and poorest citizens, and about the daily struggles of its adults and its teens. A Casual Vacancy is not a sentimental book. It's more like a winter tree, standing stark and straight, with bare limbs. It doesn't flinch from the honest portrayal of Pagford's citizens, but it does leave the reader with questions. Also, even though the ending is hopeful, the story is bleak and sad. A little magic might be nice, after all.
Length: 503 pages
Worth Your Time? Yes, but be warned, Rowling's characters face a host of serious issues, including poverty, drug use, self-cutting, sexual abuse, OCD, depression, and facing the death of a loved one.