Not so long ago I read a series of novels, each opening with the exploits of a complex but sympathetic child, spoilt but misunderstood by his parents, the subject of so many misfortunes and bizarre happenings, somehow always cast as the bully. Sadly for the most part, these novels left poor Dudley Dursley's tragicomic plight unresolved while following the adventures of some annoying kid who goes to boring wizard school.
At times this still seems like a children's novel: the village teenagers play a large role and part of the story is told from their viewpoint, including their own understanding of their parents' lies, secrets and scandalous dealings. The characters and their long trains of thought are undeniably Rowling - perhaps this is a key element of a Rowling-trademark style. Also despite the many topical issues that crop up, there's the sense of writing for a readership from a previous age that also permeated the boarding-school world of Harry Potter.
I thought this was an excellent although perhaps not outstanding novel. It's certainly enjoyable and occasionally shocking.