Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Revisiting Harry Potter

WARNING: If you have not read the first 7 Harry Potter novels, do not read this post. There are no spoilers for book number 8.

Unless you are completely clueless (someone I live with - not a child, mind you - said, "What? There is an 8th book?"), you probably know that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on July 31st. As with every other previous HP book, I wanted to read all the books in the series over again. I succumbed to anticipation and impatience and read the new book after rereading only the first three. Then, I began the last four, and am about to finish #7.

The last time I read these books was in 2007. I was 29 years old, had a 4 year old, a one year old and was pregnant with my third child. I had been a children's librarian for 4 years. I was very much a solitary reader. Now I am 38. My children are 13, 10 and 8. I have had some not so great life experiences (open heart surgery and breaking up with my first and extremely beloved school librarian job). However, now my reading life is enriched by the Nerdy Book Club, nErDcampMI and tons of #nerdy friends. No longer am I a solitary reader in the world; I have nerdy companions, and it has made all the difference.

What has changed? What hasn't?

SPOILERS!!! If you haven't read the first 7 books:

1) I always liked The Order of the Phoenix least because Harry was so teenage angsty and annoying. Now after living through some harder life experiences and having a teenage daughter (and some experience working in middle school), I can appreciate that angst. As one of my best nerdy friends said, it is a relief that he is so normal. After all, Cedric's death could have crushed his soul, but he pushes bravely forward, even though everyone at worst, claims he is a liar (all living in denial that Voldemort was indeed back) or at best, needs a long stay at St. Mungo's.

2) In The Half-Blood Prince, I felt more pity for Lord Voldemort, or more accurately, for Tom Riddle. I think his abandonment by his parents destroyed him utterly. Unlike Harry, he doesn't have the character strength to rebound from a miserable childhood. He isn't a one-dimensional villain; he is the consequence of a loveless life.

3) Dobby. He annoys a lot of readers, many of the ones in my family.  I loathed him in Book 2, and the whole S.P.E.W. movement is my least favorite part of Book 4. When he died the first time I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I didn't feel joy; I felt nothing. This time, I cried, and was mocked by family members for my emotion. Why the change? I've lost a few more loved ones in my life. Also, I mourned Dobby because Harry mourns and loves Dobby, and I love Harry.

4) Snape. The first time, I cried like a baby when it is revealed that he has loved Harry's mother, and then Harry all along. He remains loyal to The Order of the Phoenix, and dies a heroic death. We realize that his killing of Dumbledore is a sign of reluctant mercy, and that his presence as the headmaster at Hogwarts ensures the safety of the students, at least until the battle begins. Now, I am psychologically dreading reading those parts again. I have slowed down my reading progress of the last book to a crawl because I know my heart is going to shatter in a million pieces at that chapter. I already cried while reading "The Silver Doe," knowing it was Snape that sent Harry Godric Gryffendor's sword.

Spoiler-free thoughts on Book 8.

I was extremely excited about this book, proclaimed that it was awesome, and openly defied others on social media to disagree. Of course, one of my nerdy friends found it very flawed, and after some long, painful chatting, I had to concede a few things:

1) The format is jarring. The stage directions are there making it weird. The writing itself is nowhere near the quality of the novels.

2) The timeline. Excuse me, was there a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum of which I was unaware (extra points if you recognize the origin of that phrase)? I was 19 when Harry was 11 and now he is older than me?

3) The plot device chosen catches even the most expert of writers, and JKR and her co-authors do not survive unscathed. What do I mean?

Copyright: Disney/Pixar Animation (lazy sighting; Bad Librarian!)

But, but,'s Harry and I LOVE Harry, so being back in his world, even despite the flaws, was a joy. Would I rate the 8th book 5 stars again? Never say never (btw, that's a Brandy reference and perfect for 1997). Reading it again is not going to happen anytime soon so my rating stands, at least for now. 

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