Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
In Deathly Hallows the war that's been brewing for the previous six novels breaks through. The Ministry of Magic falls to Voldemort's forces, and the wizarding media are being controlled as well. Those who oppose the new regime are under attack from all sides and frequently have to go into hiding to escape from the interrogations and baseless convictions that run rampant across the country. When dissenters are unable to be caught, their family members are taken hostage by Voldemort's followers to blackmail the into submission. Harry, having been entrusted with the secret of defeating Voldemort by Dumbledore, takes Ron and Hermione with him to track down objects called "Horcuxes." These objects are things which Voldemort has magically enchanted to contain part of his soul. As long as they exist, Voldemort cannot die because part of him will always live. The problem is that Dumbledore died before he could figure out exactly where all these Horcruxes are, so the three teenagers are left mostly up to their own devices to find them. Also, they can't share their mission with anyone else to ask for help since doing so would exponentially increase the possibility of them being found out. These leads to a lot of frustration and fighting, and in one case a complete diversion from the mission when Harry begins to think that Dumbledore meant to point them in a completely different direction. Meanwhile, the wizarding world is being terrorized with no end in sight.
In the end, however improbable it might be, Harry and his friends succeed. Good triumphs over evil, and the battle of Hogwarts is won. Of course, the victory happens in such a way as to make it clear that no one really wins in war. Children are orphaned, beloved characters are killed, and Hogwarts castle itself suffers permanent damage. This is not a fairytale ending, but it's the ending that the story dictates.
The story is somewhat more complex than the previous installments, and the answers are as fuzzy for the reader as they are for the characters. We don't have any special insight into what Dumbledore wanted the children to do, and through the middle when there's little to no action it's almost as frustrating for the reader as it seems for Harry, Hermione, and Ron. This book is also darker than all the previous ones, with torture, kidnapping, and death being a main plot point. The book makes more demands on the reader than the previous ones; it's tempting to skip ahead to where the action is rather than listen to another retelling of another round about conversation between Harry and Hermione. But the battle scenes are well written, and a lot of the introspection is necessary to understand some of the events that happen at the end of the novel. There's also a passage that's pure character redemption that may be a little complicated for smaller children, but which does shed new light on the actions of that character through the series.
Of course, then there's the epilogue, which does seem to reinforce the idea that people do live happily ever after, you will marry your high school sweet heart and have loads of beautiful intelligent children with them. I know this was galling to some people, but if I were a parent reading this to my middle school age (or younger) child, I can see why Rowling would want to give some kind of hope at the end. The idea that there is life after the kind of loss all the characters experienced is valuable, even if the way it's presented seems a little "happily ever after" for some.
This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Genny (now just Rusty)'s review, check her blog, Rusty's Ventures.