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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY OLIVIA SMITH, St. Petersburg High
Any true Potterhead knows the feeling of waiting in line to get the latest J.K. Rowling masterpiece, watching the seconds tick to midnight, bookstore employees frantically passing out books to outreached hands, fingernails jagged from anxious chewing. We all went home and stayed up as long as we could possibly keep our eyes open, turning the page to find out what would happen to the golden trio next.
The Casual Vacancy is not that kind of book.
Contrary to its bright and playful cover, J.K. Rowling’s newest work is an intimidating read, and not because of its cool 503 pages. (No one had trouble devouring the 700-plus pages of the later Potter books.) It’s the subject matter.
The first thing that came to my mind was that the prologues in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Vacancy were surprisingly similar. Both introduce readers to the starting point of the book. In the first, it’s the birth of Harry James Potter. This time, it is the blunt, anticlimactic yet powerful death of local politician Barry Fairbrother. Although his death may seem inconsequential, it sets off a chain of events that will change the fictional town of Pagford forever.
Even though there is a huge ensemble cast of characters (some more memorable than others) Pagford is a character all its own. Starkly different economic classes as well as the various subcultures make up a location that is already walking on eggshells. The death of Barry was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Excuse all the cliches.)
Back to the human characters. To compare Vacancy to Garry Marshall’s commercially successful, star-studded holiday movies Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve would be unfair but not entirely inappropriate.
Obviously, Rowling couldn’t produce something mindless and shoddy if she tried. But the huge cast of characters gets a little ridiculous. Some of the less developed ones start to blend in with one another, which to Rowling’s credit, brings out even more of the better ones. Like Krystal Weedon.
Every time I was up late, wanting to put the book down so I wouldn’t have to read anymore about the endless woes of working for local government, I held through to catch at least a mention of the tragically fascinating Krystal.
Krystal lives in “The Fields,” which is basically the British equivalent of the ghetto. Her mother, Terri, is a heroin-addicted prostitute who cannot and will not take care of Krystal or her brother Robbie.
I’m not saying this simply because she is British, but anyone who is familiar with the original Skins UK (in my mind the terrible American version never happened) won’t be able to shrug away the similarity of Krystal Weedon and Effy Stonem. For the unacquainted, Effy is Skins’ token bad girl with a heart of gold. With all of Effy and Krystal’s hard drug use and promiscuity, it’s easy to forget that both of them are still kids.
It should be mentioned that both Robbie and Krystal meet tragic endings. Rowling definitely uses the “nature versus nurture” theory in her favor. Not so much in the Weedons’ favor.
No one was particularly clamoring for a J.K. Rowling adult book. Casual Vacancy was definitely not written in a rush; nor can it be read in one.
Don’t expect to finish this in a night. Or a week. But, as always, Rowling’s engaging writing style will make you enjoy almost every paragraph. Even if there are no transformable animals.