Recently, I’ve been reading back through the Harry Potter series. I’ve decided against reviewing each of the volumes separately – I just feel like there really isn’t much more I can add that the internet hasn’t analyzed a million times already in far more depth that I could ever hope to attain.
But what I can add is my own personal opinions (which, let’s be honest, is all this blog really is), so I thought I’d throw a few of those out there.
I first read the series when books 1-4 had been published. That July, I was housesitting about thirty miles from home, which was far enough away that I pretty much stayed there and didn’t go home much. Translation: an entire week of reading. It was glorious. I was also super close to the main Columbus library, which is gigantic and beautiful and amazing and magical. I went there almost every day, especially since it was only taking me about a day to get through each HP book! After that, I housesat for those same friends pretty much every summer. I found myself returning to the HP books every July, reading them all through to include the newest volume. While everyone seems to think of them as Christmas books (why do all the movies play every Christmas? They aren’t remotely Christmasy!), for me they always bring back memories of lazy, humid days, reading on my friends’ screened-in back porch, with their funny little black-and-white mutt, Henry, snoring on the rug, cicadas chirping and the distant sounds of children playing in a sprinkler.
As for the books themselves – well, they’re brilliant. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a simple reader: I read what’s written, and enjoy the story for what it is. I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing a turn of phrase and trying to pull hidden meanings out of thin air. All that to say, I think these are good stories – excellent stories, even. They’re well-written and engaging with great characterizations. I really enjoy watching the three main characters grow and mature throughout. And while there are times that I get annoyed with all them (especially, let’s be real, Harry), they come through as realistic and relatable.
One thing I really appreciate is how I feel like the characters are also true to their ages. While yes, they pull off some impressive stunts as 11-year-olds, their actions, language, and thoughts are consistent with someone that age (in my opinion), and that continues through the books.
I also love the snarky humor. The Weasley twins are easily my favorites – funny, witty, intelligent, and kind. Overall, the dialogue makes these books worth reading. Rowling gives us natural and interesting interactions between characters, and with a seven-book range, she’s able to develop relationships with a lot of depth.
Really, the main thing I don’t like about these books is Rowling herself. I’m of the opinion that a writer should write her books and then leave them be, or write some more of them. I don’t like the way that Rowling just says random things, making them canon, even though they aren’t in the books. The whole thing with Dumbledore being homosexual – that isn’t in the books at all. Dumbledore being gay doesn’t annoy me – what annoys me is Rowling come along years after the books are printed and just tagging it in there as a thing that’s a thing even though it’s not actually a thing. (And, side note, thanks, Rowling, for devaluing yet another friendship by telling us that obviously Dumbledore and Grindelwald were gay because they were “too close” to be “just” friends. Because obviously it’s impossible to have a close friend of the same sex, and later in life to not want to have to kill that friend, and not actually be involved in a sexual relationship of some kind. Arrrrgggghhhh But that’s actually a rant about the devaluation of friendship in fiction in general; Rowling just gives us a classic example.)
Anyway, I also don’t think any author should come back later and say that she actually “wanted” to change a huge part of the stories – e.g., have Hermione end up with Harry instead of Ron. If that’s what she wanted to do, that’s what she ought to have done. She really annoys me because so often it’s obvious that she’s coming up with stuff just to keep people talking about her books, not because she’s actually adding anything useful or even interesting. (And really? Harry and Hermione? I could write an entire article about why Hermione and Ron are perfect, and why that’s one of my favorite things, and why I felt like that really added a lot of depth to the story – so thanks, Rowling, for making it appear as though one of things I was most inclined to give you credit for was actually just an accident.)
But as long as I avoid Rowling’s press releases and interviews, I enjoy reading these books every summer. The world-building is amazing and the story gripping. It’s fantasy at its best, and I think that these books deserve their admittance to the “classics” category.