Book Review: Harry Potter Series
I know: you already have some preconceived notions about Harry Potter. We all do. The series has become an empire, with it's own movie series and theme park, and no matter what subset of Harry Potter related media you've experienced you have some thoughts about it. Regardless of what those notions are -- good, bad, or ugly -- read on! I have had my own preconceptions about HP at various points in my life, and after re-reading all seven books right in a row I can tell you that many of them were turned upside down. It may not be the series for you, but before you go invest time in reading it, you may as well read this way shorter blog post about it so you know what you're getting into at least a little bit.
Like many twenty-somethings, Harry Potter was the series of my adolescence, and I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I stood in line for six hours to get the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th books, dressed as a wizard and talking to other HP fans. I went to the midnight premier of at least three of the movies. I wasn't the most into it of all my friends, but I drank the Kool-Aid. However, as I picked up the first book again a few months ago I wasn't expecting Harry Potter to be a great series. I expected that they would be perfectly adequate tween novels that I had loved in my youth but now, older and wiser, would realize I had outgrown, like Percy Jackson or Neopets. I'll get to the chase you know is coming, reader: Harry Potter is not just a kids book. The characters are what make these books extraordinary, as they are all layered, multidimensional, real people who reflect modern society so well. JK Rowling is able to capture the many ways we judge other humans in her characters, and the lengths we'll go to defend those judgements.
While the series is seven novels long, in reality it's one story spanning seven years, that you do have to read in order and all of. This isn't Animal Ark people. There's no picking one book and saying "Read this and you've read them all". That said, it's 100% worth it. And I will say, some of the books are better than others. My personal favorite was "The Half-Blood Prince", but there is no weak-link in the set, or book I finished and thought "Man, I really hope the next one is better". TL;DR Yes you have to read them all.
What I loved
- The Characters. Growing up, all I remember is hating Snape. I had no recollection of what an incredible character he is, so painfully human and deeply entangled in the story. The Malfoys, the Weasleys, each delicately balanced between family and principles, conflicted in how to choose what's best for those they love. So. Good.
- The HP Universe. JK Rowlings universe is very well thought out, with details like government policy, racial prejudices, and even the botany of the universe created from scratch and implemented perfectly. Percy stresses about regulating cauldron-bottoms to be thick enough. Neville knows the properties of Gillyweed and Devil's Snare. History class is boring, standardized tests are stressful, and non-wizards, muggle-born wizards, and women are all placed in a social hierarchy similar to the racial strata that exists today. The detail and consistency here is incredible, and makes the magical world of Harry Potter that much more immersive and real.
- The Form. Did you ever notice that there are no swear words in Harry Potter? And no modern technology more recent than a telephone or TV, despite that these were written as iphones and laptops were being developed and changing the world. It's executed so well that you don't even notice. There are prominent and powerful women,
- The Themes. Rowling uses Harry Potter to explore coming of age, racism and the hatred that arises from misunderstanding, corrupt politics, greed, the psychology of abusive relationships, and more.
- It's timeless. My second time through I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface of deriving meaning from this series, and the layers of complexity make this an excellent book for readers of all ages and stages of life. I love that the series grows with you, taking on new meaning each time it's revisited, and it makes me so excited to read the series again in the future and see how it changes. The technology (or lack thereof) also adds to this timelessness, and even a hundred years from now the books will still be just as relevant and relatable.
You've made it this far: you know how I feel. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email me at wyman[dot]lucy[at]gmail[dot]com, and we can RAVE about how great HP is together. In the meantime, have an excellent day, you lovely human you.