I enjoyed writing reviews for the books I read last year, and although I fell off the wagon as 2015 came to a close, I am going to start this year fresh! This book review will differ from most because it is of a book that is deeply important to me. I spent a large portion of my winter break re-reading the Harry Potter series (I don’t think I had re-read the entire series since my freshman year of college, but I may be wrong), and I finished Deathly Hallows as my first novel of 2016. Since I have read this book so many times, and I doubt people are looking for an actual review of it, I am going to split this post into different parts in lieu of a traditional review: what I noticed while re-reading the series at this stage in my life and what the Harry Potter series has meant to me.
Reading over winter break.
What I Noticed While Re-Reading the Series
- These books are really funny. Harry is a particularly funny (sarcastic) character. I laughed out loud a lot.
- There is basically nothing positive about Slytherin in the books. The closest we get is Slughorn and Snape, but I’m still not satisfied. Slughorn isn’t exactly someone I would look up to, and Snape is bad-turned-good. I want a Slytherin character who is good from the beginning, who joins Dumbledore’s Army, who uses their ambition and cunning to not only be successful in school, but to rebel against the Carrows and the other challenges that Hogwarts faces in the seventh book. As a Slytherin myself, this is pretty important to me. I hope that Slytherin gets redeemed in the Cursed Child… until then, I’ll just have to live with my head canon.
- Speaking of The Cursed Child, I’m a little annoyed with the “all is well” ending when clearly, based on the description of the upcoming play, all was not well.
- Some of the characters should probably be more traumatized about events that have happened to them than they are. Maybe it’s because they’re used to magic, but if I found out I had been carrying a grown man (and a murderer at that) in my pocket and sleeping with him in my bed for several years, I would definitely need some counseling.
- On that note, I enjoyed Order of the Phoenix more this time around than I ever had before. I used to make jokes about “emo” Harry, now I am just shocked that he kept himself together so well given all the trauma that he faced.
- Still feel pretty iffy about Dumbledore. Not sure if I’m a fan of how he treated Harry. I think his wish for the “greater good,” even if what the “greater good” meant to him changed over time, was still the most prominent aspect of his philosophy.
- I love Harry Potter, and I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life where I wouldn’t enjoy reading these books.
It’s Real For Us: What the Harry Potter Series Has Meant To Me
I clearly remember getting my first Harry Potter book, although I was just in elementary school at the time. My mom pulled me into her bedroom and told me she had something for me but she didn’t get anything for my sister so I wasn’t supposed to tell her (sorry, Ariana). She then handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, telling me that a co-worker had recommended it and she thought I would like it. I was an avid reader at the time, but my obsession then was the Babysitter’s Club series. I looked at Harry Potter and thought, “This looks like it is for boys” (my more progressive mindset nowadays is disappointed in that thought process). However, I read the book (both on my own and when my 4th/5th grade teacher read it to us), and I fell in love.
I basically grew up with the series. I got the books on their release dates. When I was too young to go on my own, my family would get the books for me. My dad got me Goblet of Fire for my 10th birthday, and my grandparents got my friend Danielle and I copies of Half Blood Prince since we were spending its release date at our last day of summer camp. I read them cover-to-cover, anxious for my friends to finish so we could talk about what happened. My friends and I went to midnight movie premieres; I clearly remember seeing the Warner Brothers symbol light up the screen at our first midnight premiere of Prisoner of Azkaban. I spent my summer nights anxiously awaiting the next installment in Harry Potter trivia chatrooms, perusing the articles and theories on Mugglenet, and reading Harry Potter fan fiction. The seventh book did not come out on my seventeenth birthday (07/07… come on… that would have been perfect), but I got it on midnight several weeks later, terrified about the story coming to an end. In retrospect, that release was perfect timing: in addition to the story ending, a large part of my life was about to end as well as I started a new journey in college at Central Michigan University.
However, I didn’t need to worry. Only a few minutes into school, I found my place. CMU held a Harry Potter conference, and I met some of my closest school friends at this event. They were in a club called Dumbledore’s Army, which we eventually transitioned into a chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, a youth social justice organization. I saw the movie premieres with my new friends, and we traveled to other states for Harry Potter events. We sobbed next to each other when we saw the premiere of Deathly Hallows part II at Leaky Con in Orlando. We screamed and sweat and had a blast together when we started CMU’s Quidditch team. I got to incorporate Harry Potter into my education, taking a class that allowed me to travel to England for Spring Break. I wrote papers with Harry Potter themes, and I realized that Harry Potter was indicative of my true interest in reading: young adult literature.
Some people probably think my obsession with Harry Potter is dumb or even childish now that I’m older. I don’t care. I’m not going to be embarrassed about something I’m enthusiastic about, especially when that something has helped so many people, myself included. Harry Potter has helped me make friends. It’s been a safe place for me during hard parts of my life. It’s caused me to laugh and cry. It instilled a love of social justice and inclusion in me. The presence that it plays in my life seems to wax and wane, but even in the past years where it has played less of a role, it has always had a place in my heart.
Here are pictures that highlight some of my favorite memories! It was fun going through these 🙂
Andrew Sims and I at a live MuggleCast show in high school. This was back when I thought I was a Ravenclaw. (I’ve recently rediscovered MuggleCast, as well as Andrew’s new show #Millenial. Obsessed with both.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book premiere.
William Todd Jones and I at the CMU Harry Potter Conference. He did the body work for Grawp in the films. We got to learn a bit about how that scene was filmed, and I played Hermione for it 🙂
We had a Harry Potter theme week at camp, and Cabin 2 went all out!
Bracing for impact at King’s Cross in London.
Just hanging out with VoldeMark at Leaky Con 2009.
The Harry Potter Alliance got to be on the radio!
Getting sorted at Relay for Life.
The Harry Potter Exhibition in Chicago.
Dressed up as Harry Potter characters for the Polar Plunge.
Am I a Slytherin? Debating at Leaky Con 2011/the Wizarding World. (It would be confirmed later that year with the release of Pottermore.)
The Leaky Con crew.
Protecting my chaser with a bludger while playing Quidditch!