by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorn. July 31, 2016. Arthur A. Levine Books (special rehearsal edition). 320 pages. Ages 8 & up.
Nineteen years after the defeat of Voldemort, Harry Potter is enjoying a rather mundane life as a husband and father of three, and working at the Ministry of Magic, where his old friend Hermione is now the Minister.
However, his middle child, Albus, is having a much harder time dealing with the legacy of being Harry Potter's son than his older son James ever did. After Albus starts Hogwarts, he feels even more than he can never live up to the expectations put on him. He begins to become sullen and withdrawn, and angry at his father. To further set himself apart from his father, he chooses Slytherin House, and to his father's dismay, he becomes best friends with Draco Malfoy's son, Scorpius.
Deep in his angst, a very mis-guided Albus decides he will right a perceived wrong of his father's in order to make a name for himself and convinces Scorpius to join him. After his first attempt not only doesn't work, but has unintended consequences, he insists on making a second attempt, which has catastrophic consequences that threaten all those he cares about, and his very existence! All the while, his father senses a dark presence, and begins to feel a familiar pain in his scar. Has the Dark One returned?
So, after previously saying she was done with the Harry Potter world, J. K. Rowling has in fact returned to milk her cash cow, perhaps because of a less than stellar response to her adult fiction? But this time it comes in the form of a play written with the assistance of a theatrical writer and director, resulting in a book that is a script, rather than a novel [some bookstores/libraries may have it with the other Harry Potter books, others may have it shelved with other plays]. This format results in a book that is a littler harder to read, and probably a little less appealing for some, particularly kids.
The plot moves along at a very brisk pace, whizzing through Albus' first two years at Hogwarts in just a couple of very quick scenes before slowing down for the main action during his third year. Some parts of the plot are somewhat predictable, but there are some surprises, and overall, I enjoyed it, despite some of the story weaknesses. Perhaps not as much as any of the original 7 novels, but it wasn't bad, and I think most Harry Potter fans would be satisfied with the ending. As cynical as I am about Rowling's motivation for writing it, I must confess I had always secretly hoped there would be some kind of follow-up that would resolve Harry and Draco's conflict in a similar fashion and I was very happy with the ending.
This "special rehearsal edition" was released to coincide with Harry Potter's fictional birthday, which just happens to be J. K. Rowling's actual birthday, and just following the theatrical preview performance. Another edition, the "Definitive Collector's Edition" will be released in 2017 in order to squeeze a few more profits out of it, er, I mean incorporate all the revisions that occurred after the script's initial publication. I would have preferred a novelization of the script for easier reading and broader appeal, and I'm sure others would as well. Dare I predict we will likely see this script released in novel form in 2018 to further capitalize on the story?? Perhaps coinciding with a film adaptation??
I would recommend this to fans of the original Harry Potter books. While it may not be quite as good as the novels, I don't think many people really expect it to be, so some may even be pleasantly surprised. It might be possible to enjoy the story without having read the original series, but I think one really needs to know all the history preceding it, especially the relationships between Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the rivalry between Harry and Draco, and the Battle for Hogwarts to fully appreciate it.