by J.K. Rowling
In his second year at Hogwart’s, Harry discovers that the school hides a terrible monster, one that terrorized the school fifty years ago and killed a student. When “Mudbloods” (wizard children of normal parents, or half-breeds) start ending up petrified, and Hagrid is implicated, Harry and Ron act to discover what secrets the school hides.
This was a terrific sequel, in my mind better than the rather reductive first book. While Rowling is stretching it with the “pitiful orphan” bit at the beginning (would the Dursleys really continue treating Harry that way, knowing how powerful he and his friends are?), everything after is fantastic. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even think for a moment that the monster would be a basilisk, despite the petrification; I really enjoyed in retrospect the clues Rowling left (puddles of water, a broken camera, a mirror). The climax, too, was ultimately more satisfying; Dumbledore was absent from the school, so it really was up to Harry to save the day (though not without help from various sources). I also liked the message, that our choices form us more than our abilities. Packed with humor and suspense and satisfying comeuppance, this book made me think the Potter-mania wasn’t just hype.