Rowling's writing continues to improve. She has always been able to create very lifelike characters and situate them in concrete settings. This book is no exception. And while the book does touch upon some more adult themes, real world issues of teenagers, and adult language, I never got the sense that it was gratuitous or to prove that she wasn't writing for children.
She beautifully creates the suffocating and semi-idyllic life of a small, english town. My wife commented, in the midst of our writing, that she sometimes thought about the characters in the middle of the day as though they were friends on Facebook who would be posting again sometime soon. Yes, she's that good at creating characters.
The book is ultimately about redemption-- some character's redemptions are more believable than others. But, I'm glad to have read it and look forward to her next book. (4 1/2 stars)