Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Book Poster Image
Powerful penultimate book mines Voldemort's past.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 37 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 155 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

J. K. Rowling borrows from many established stories and myths to piece together her magical world. Kids can look up more about flying brooms, centaurs, inferi, magic wands, etc., compare the author's take with other interpretations, and think about how and why she weaves these magical elements and beings into her stories. See the "Families Can Talk About" section for more discussion ideas.

Positive Messages

Friendship, love, bravery, and loyalty are always major themes in the series. This book also tackles more mature themes like jealousy and heartbreak, dealing with loss, and why it's important to know thine enemy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In Book 5 Harry is pretty angry and shows his temper -- not anymore. He seems to have a lot more acceptance of what he needs to do to fight his enemy and shows special loyalty to Professor Dumbledore, who is a wonderful mentor to him in this book. Ron and Hermione, on the other hand, are caught up in much more pettiness -- jealousy abounds between them. Professor Slughorn values his connections to the talented and famous above all else, and Harry and friends see him for who he is.

Violence

Lots, and increasingly vicious and bloody, with numerous deaths (of adults), and with greater consequences as the series progresses, including another death of a major character.  A student is cursed and almost dies.

Sex

Lots of kissing (or snogging, in the British vernacular that is used in the book). Plus plenty of crushes and confused feelings -- Harry and friends are 16 now, after all.

Language

A few mild epithets.

Consumerism

Chocolate Frogs and other sweets mentioned were at first only fantasy products, but are now for sale.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink Butterbeer (very mildly alcoholic) at the Hogsmeade pub and what sounds like slightly more robust cocktails at Professor Slughorn's Christmas party; Professor Slughorn serves Harry and Ron mead on a separate occasion. A handful of adults drink and get drunk:  Professor Trelawney, the head of an orphanage, Hagrid, and Professor Slughorn, and even the Fat Lady portrait overindulges over the holidays, then changes the Gryffindor tower password to "abstinence." A potion is used by Harry and friends that makes the drinker have good luck for a few hours.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as the series progresses and the characters age, it is a better fit for tweens. The violence is more violent (there are many mentions of deaths at the hand of Voldemort and his followers), the mood darker, the consequences greater. A major and beloved character is killed, apparently in vain, and the emotional consequences are great. Harry and Professor Dumbledore piece together memories of Lord Voldemort throughout his life to get a better picture of the enemy they're dealing with, making parts of the book feel more like a psychological thriller. Parents who want to learn more about the series (and spin-off movies and games) can read our Harry Potter by Age and Stage article.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytournhtid July 18, 2009

12+

This is a good book, does involve a bit of drinking and a few sexuall ineuendos in the book and movie. Lots of kissing and sexual tension/relationship tension b... Continue reading
Parent of a 5, 9, 11, and 14 year old Written byJamesRobertson January 4, 2009
Kid, 11 years old June 20, 2010

10+ or depending on maturity, no younger than 9.

I love this book. It's one of my favorites in the series. This one has one of the most deaths. It has many wars. And one scene where Dumbledore goes crazy,... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 29, 2011

Excellent Book, More Mature Than Previous Installments

This book is one of the strongest installments in the Harry Potter franchise, but it is also one of the most mature. There are many mature themes, such as snogg... Continue reading

What's the story?

Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters, are out in the open now, so much so that Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic, feels it necessary to inform the muggle Prime Minister. Snape is up to no good, Draco has been given an assignment by the Dark Lord, and a net of security has dropped on Hogwarts. Deaths, disappearances, and destruction increase as Harry's penultimate year at Hogwarts begins. Most of the book is spent watching Harry learn -- about Voldemort's past, about new potions and spells, about Snape and Malfoy, and even about Dumbledore. The three heroes squabble and bicker, though Harry seems to have mellowed since his furious rampage through Book 5 -- and there's a lot more kissing. And once again, the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts knows more than he's telling.

Is it any good?

This series remains compellingly readable, breathlessly suspenseful and exciting, and now -- with the arrival of this installment -- powerfully emotional. Don't even think of reading HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE without having read its predecessors. As J.K. Rowling begins pulling together the threads and characters from the previous books, even fans may have trouble remembering all the references.

As the protagonists age, so do the books, growing darker, more violent, more complex, and much more emotional. While young kids will still want to read it, and will probably be enthralled, this is clearly aimed at tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can also talk about the popularity of the Harry Potter series. Which book is your favorite? Which is your least favorite? Do you like/watch the movies as well? They even made a Harry Potter theme park -- do you want to visit?

  • On a related note, has the popularity or marketing of Harry Potter made you more interested or less?

  • The Harry Potter books are considered fantasy because of the magical elements, but draw all kinds of fans -- many who have never read fantasy books before. The sixth book in particular ups the romance and dark psychological thriller elements. Which aspects drew you most to the book?

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