Up today for review are every single installment of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. You’re probably wondering why I’m reviewing these now, almost a decade after the initial craze that these books and movies caused on an international scale. Let me explain. I feel I need to lay the foundation for my relationship with Harry Potter growing up, or actually, lack thereof, which may justify my delayed take on these seven novels.
Let’s rewind a bit. Before these became films, I remember my father buying a copy of book one for my sister and I when I was about thirteen. Together we read the first few chapters before getting bored and put it down, never to be picked it up again. Through my high school years, my friends talked me into attending every single movie at least twice, and to this day, I barely remember anything significant from any of them from my first viewing. This series has just never been something I obsessed over. I figured maybe it just wasn’t my “thing” and moved on to other material.
Up until lately, my friends and colleagues have ridiculed me for not appreciating anything about this franchise so I decided to give it another go after many years away and ignoring the supposed magic of HP (pun intended). As far as my history is concerned, I was a full on muggle.
It was creepy enough being thirty years old and shopping in the children’s section of my local Barnes and Noble for these books, but having read them now as an adult for the first time, there is a definite disconnect for me. I appreciate the empire JK Rowling has created with her characters and the lessons they learn, but since I chose to have it absent from my youth, I’m missing the bond everyone else seems to have with these stories and each character. I am not, by any means, saying I disliked or didn’t appreciate each novel, but I just looked at them more from a literary standpoint rather than a child getting lost in the idea of witches and wizards.
Book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, definitely read like a children’s book. I opened this one during a snow day and after one chapter, I wanted to give up again. Nothing against the book itself, but it just felt juvenile to scan the pages of a children’s story as a grown adult.
However, I do see the appeal. There’s lessons to take away from the adventures Ron, Hermione, and Harry have while they try surviving their first year at Hogwarts. They may be young and inexperienced wizards, but they learn to grow up and adapt quickly to situations beyond their control.
Once I tackled book one, I felt pretty proud that I accomplished the full novel as opposed to when I was younger and giving up on the material. Beginning book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I had to keep in mind to maintain my momentum.
Turning pages is relatively easy so I got through each installment fairly quickly. However, I’m not fully on board overall with the last 4-5 chapters having something massive happen, and then have the story wind up like a whimsical episode of Full House.
I understand they’re books for the kiddies (it definitely reads like one in the first three books at least). It’s a world of pure magic, whimsy, and fantasy. As previously stated, I’m aware that there’s lessons to be learned from the challenges and tribulations the characters face, but as an adult, it tends to get slightly redundant.
By time I finished up book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I began enjoying the stories more…finally, right??
They’re very detailed for being aimed at a younger audience. Kudos to Rowling for really delving into something unique.
Things begin getting a bit dark around the third novel so I felt the transition to a more mature read. I may go so far as to say this was my favorite of the bunch.
My only complaint three books in was totally personal and goes back to my root relationship with this empire; the lack of attachment to the story and characters, and also, the predictability of the “plot twists” everyone told me would blow my mind and totally come out of left field. I found them pretty predictable.
Book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, took me quite awhile to tackle. I just didn’t get time to devote to reading as I normally would have so the quick page turning began to slow way down at this point. This did cause parts of the story to drag for me, but overall, I enjoyed it, as things really began happening.
This installment in the series was the turning point for me. I should’ve guessed by the sheer length of the novel. Mysteries begin to unfold, and Harry begins to step into his own to avenge his parents and save the wizarding world from he who must not be named.
Four books in, I was finally beginning to appreciate the journey the story was taking me on. However, I was not living-and-breathing all things Harry Potter. I suppose I wish I could have been as obsessed as everyone else I always encounter, but I’m just not there for some reason. I continued to hold out hope for the last three books.
Five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, serves as the beginning of the end. All of Hogwarts is starting to feel the wrath brought about by Voldemort and his Death Eaters. You can really feel the plot building to an epic ending.
My only gripe as far as book five was the length. I’m all for a big, chunky novel, I usually even prefer it, but I felt this story could’ve been told with less of the extra details. Thankfully, the final two books were a bit smaller. Normally, I can binge read for a few hours, but five just did not allow me more than 1-2 chapters in a sitting.. So it felt like it took me forever to complete.
On a positive note, For once, I didn’t hesitate to pick up the next book. I felt I finally got to the point where I needed to know what would happen next. From this point to the end, I was on a roll.
Book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. FINALLY, a smaller segment of HP stories. Is it wrong that I enjoy these books more when they’re not almost 900 pages? Sometimes there’s too many scenes that don’t necessarily add to the story line for me.
The sixth was probably the most entertaining, maybe because a major character was lost and things are beginning to reach that literary climax. Unfortunately, friends of mine gave me spoilers along the way so nothing came as a shock, which hindered my bond with this book. I was prepared for almost everything that came my way as I turned the pages.
Okay, last book, the home stretch in review. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is where the audience has to hold its breath in order to see who will come out the victor in one of the ultimate battles of good vs. evil.
After closing the seventh one, I can properly give an overall perspective of my time with Harry and friends at Hogwarts. I liked them more than I initially thought I would, but it’s tough to get through all seven of these one right after the other. I felt I accomplished something major by time I shut the back cover of the final book. It was pretty exhausting.
Like I said before, I had a few spoilers along the way, but it was pretty predictable as to how it would all end anyway. It was frustrating to have people hype up the series and the “plot twists” only to figure out how this tale would end pretty easily on my own. I did discuss with a friend (after I finished the books) how I felt, and she agreed that it was probably because everyone read the stories as kids and were blown away and I just had a different experience approaching them as an adult. Regardless, it was an interesting journey and I can’t fault J.K. Rowling for that at all.
The seventh book, and the previous six, did hold my attention, but, I just never had that fantastic “Harry Potter is everything” moment. For me, these books didn’t have the impact they had on everyone who read them as kids. I’m not obsessed with all things Harry Potter, but the author did a commendable job for sure. I respect her greatly for her creativity and the empire she’s built with the concept. I know my brain could never come up with the ideas and characters she did, and she continued it for seven, VERY extensive novels. The world of Hogwarts and the idea of witches and wizards living amongst us muggles, does make Harry Potter a rather enchanting idea. Bravo, Rowling!