V: So this book was harder for me to get through, not because it was longer but because it was heavier. Did it feel heavy to you? Most talk about how "dark" the series continually gets, but I think heavy is a better word for it. There's more to deal with, more to worry about, and we've pretty much seen the last of happy-go-lucky Harry simply having fun at Hogwarts. With the Triwizard Tournament going on, we see an almost constantly worried Harry. The poor kid hardly has a moment to sit down and just be happy that he's back in the Wizarding World before he's thrown into a life-threatening tournament. And I think part of what contributed to this feeling of nerves and almost fear throughout the book is that Harry is a bit older, he sees more, and there's more worrisome stuff going on even outside of Hogwarts in the rest of the Wizarding World, so he's started actually catching the worry on the faces of the adults, he hears the breaks in their voices, and he knows that everything isn't quite under control anymore. Of course, this means that we too see a lot more uncertainty in the adult cast, which can't mean anything good. Add in the idea that the problems and bad things aren't just happening at Hogwarts anymore but throughout the entire world, and you've got yourself an already darker and more nerve-wracking atmosphere.
In the midst of all this worry and change, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing up. Hermione takes up activism for house-elves, Ron and Harry have their first fight, and they all have their first crushes. Overall, life at Hogwarts gets that much more complicated and interesting. People have criticized the romance in the HP books before, saying that romance was the one thing JKR wasn't any good at writing. I know book 6 is more the central hub for this sort of argument, but what do you think about that at this early stage in Book 4? We see Ron's crush on Fleur, based almost solely on looks, and it's juxtaposed with Harry's shy crush on Cho (which seems to be based more on who she is...Quidditch player, good student, nice person...in addition to her being pretty) and Hermione's actual relationship with Krum. I think Hermione and Krum are the most interesting couple here. It only makes sense that Hermione was the first in any sort of relationship and that it was with an older guy; Hermione is the most generally mature of the group, and she's not the one who had to do the asking. Ron's anger and jealousy in the face of Hermione's relationship only serve to emphasize his own immaturity, honestly (this kind of happens to Harry too, as he starts hating Cedric for dating Cho). Harry might have been second onto the relationship train if not for Cedric Diggory. Even Ginny, though she still clearly has a crush on Harry, is more talkative and open, and we can actually see her becoming a fuller character. I don't see a problem with the development of crushes and romantic feelings. It all struck me as perfectly believable, especially in the context of characters who have a lot of other things to worry about. I think JKR has done a pretty good job of setting up budding relationships and their development through the next couple of books. Did you have any problem with the more teenager-y realness that seemed to enter this book? Do you think it could have been written better? Is there anything you found particularly off-putting about the whole thing?
M: I feel like I always describe later books as darker because the earlier books are so full of wide-eyed wonder, but heavy is a good signifier as well. ReadingGoblet of Fire was great, but you do sometimes feel burdened by the weight of the story in a way that is not present in the earlier books. I feel like a lot of that has to do with the character's ages as well. Not only is the situation becoming more dire with Voldemort but, as you say, the kids are understanding more of it at the same time that their lives and relationships are getting more confusing. It's a lot to take on and I feel like that comes across very well. I'm surprised to hear that JKR is criticized for her portrayal of romantic relationships. I remember reading the books for the first time (being about the age of the characters) and not thinking anything about it - what they were going through (the petty jealousies and such) just made sense; upon reading the books a second time I'm more aware of what they are going through and just thinking to myself "oh, hormones." As a child and as an adult reader the smaller strife within the novel made sense to me and suited the overall personhood of the characters.
Victoria and I have shared quite a few of our thoughts on the Harry Potter series here on the blog, but I want to end our discussion of Book Four here to share with you guys our first podcast, Jiggery Pokery. We talked about everything from Professor Snape to Percy Jackson to the Weasleys' parenting skills, and everything in between!