Over the years, the Harry Potter books have endured an ongoing debate about whether these are truly children's books? Or, do they have more complexity to satisfy the mature adult reader? I thought they did, and I defended the books by pointing to the characterization.
In the first book, we're introduced to an ensemble of stock characters. You have the pitiful, yet noble hero, Harry Potter. You have the less-than-bright, but very loyal Ron Weasley, the sidekick. Then you have the brainiac and annoying enemy-turned-friend, Hermione Granger. From that point onwards, these three characters have grown in complexity up until the 5th book, The Order of the Phoenix. Harry gains more confidence as a wizard, to the point of becoming over-confident and arrogant, and he paid the price with his God-father's death. Ron Weasley's blind loyalty was tested in book 4, when he became so jealous of Harry's accomplishments that the abandoned his friend and hero in a time of great need. In book 5, Ron Weasley finally started to come into his own by earning respect from his peers. Hermione Granger, one of the most complex female characters ever written in fantasy fiction, went from being a stern rule-follower to becoming an intellectual equal for Harry Potter. Not only is she incredibly smart, but she is also very wise. Without Hermione Granger, Harry Potter would likely not have survived past his first year at Hogwarts.
In the most recent book, the Half-Blood Prince, all three of these characters underwent such a tremendous change, and they are changes that had no basis the previous books, which begs the question of the lack of continuity from the first 5 parts, to this 6th part.
Now, Harry has turned into a wizard sleuth who gets almost all the answers correct. In the past, it was his fallibility that made him appear human, that gave him the semblance of a real person trying to go through life's struggles. Now, he's just the perfect hero who can virtually do no wrong.
Ron Weasley has turned into a hot stud, one who knows how to get the female students around him all a-flutter just for him being in the same room. His loyalty to Harry no longer means anything to the story because he is completely cut-off from the main action sequences. Then again, one might argue that his began in the previous book. The most disturbing part of his character-development is the sudden violent tendancies. In one scene, he is being teased by his older brother, and in his anger, he threw a knife at his brother. This is a very sinister change in Ron's characterization, and unless Rowling deals with it in book 7, it will be nothing more than a lame attempt to show how macho Ron has become. Violence = masculinity? Very disturbing to say the least.
Finally, and most disappointing of all, Hermione Granger's character has been transformed into your average high school bitch. Becuase she couldn't get Ron to ask her out on a date, she goes with a total loser, Cormac McLaggen. She submits herself to McLaggen's groping just to get Ron jealous. When that fails, she fires a flock of canary birds to attack Ron. Hermione? Would she really do that, based on how she's been portrayed from books 1 to 5? What happened to studying hard to earn good grades? What happened to helping Harry solve mysteries and fighting dark forces? What happened to fighting for House Elf rights?
If these changes are J.K. Rowling's idea of character-development, then maybe she should write episodes for a new WB teen drama television series. Spare us the pain of having to buy and read such juvenile "children's literature," simply an insult to the genre.