book 4 of Harry Potter
by J. K. Rowling
I found the most recent (as of summer 2000) Harry Potter book to be far and away the best of the series. In retrospect, it's as if the previous three books were merely an extended prologue and now the story is finally beginning.
Roger Ebert says that a movie has the "idiot plot syndrome" when the entire plot of a movie happens only because one of the characters acts like an idiot (for example, by ignoring an obvious but unexciting solution to a problem). Quite a few children's books (including the first two Harry Potter books) have a specific variant of the idiot plot syndrome: everything would have been fine if the protagonists had simply gone to an adult instead of doing everything on their own. With Goblet of Fire, Rowling seems to have broken free of this syndrome: Harry is still a child (or maybe a young adult) with all of the corresponding problems, in addition to the fact that a powerful wizard is trying to kill him. However, instead of creating further problems by keeping secrets from the adults who matter, he talks to them and works with them. I think the story works much better this way.
copyright © 2000 John Regehr