Sunday, May 31, 2015

Harry Potter Revisited: The Early Years

Hello Lovelies!!

Sorry I've been away. I thought I was gonna be better when my semester finished, but it turns out the condensed summer classes are even more intense than regular semester classes. So I've been prioritizing my education. Of course, now that I have two papers due this week, I have no interest whatsoever in working on them, so I thought I'd catch up on a few reviews. So in this particular post, I'm going to sum up my rereads of Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone, and Chamber of Secrets, and Goblet of Fire.

Published: June 26, 1997
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Received: I own the whole set, but I borrowed this particular copy from the library

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone introduces readers to Harry Potter--a young orphan taken in by his aunt and uncle. The Dursleys are terrible people and Harry suffers under their upbringing until his 11th birthday, when he receives his first letter in the mail. Harry discovers he's actually a wizard and has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts, Harry has to deal with making friends, making enemies, and saving the world from evil. All in a day's work for a typical 11-year-old. 

Oh gosh, it's been so long since I've done a Harry Potter reread. Sorcerer's Stone hit me just as hard today as when I first read it in second or third grade. I've read the first three books in the series a couple dozen times. I used to have them nearly memorized. And while I still knew what was going to happen and could pinpoint some of my favorite lines, I was surprised at how much I had forgotten. Since I had watched the movies a couple times between my last reread and this time, I'd managed to supplant the movie stuff with what actually happened in the books -- even though I had been irrate that they'd left so much out when the movie released. These books mean so much to me and I'm glad I can still relate to them even though it's been literally more than half my life ago that I read them. 

As someone who spends a significant amount of time on Tumblr, I have seen various meta regarding how the trio looks and acts. So for this reread, I paid extra attention to Rowling's descriptors. I was pleased to discover that the only person whose skin is specifically mentioned (of the trio) is Ron--and he's simply described as pale and freckly. Those two adjectives could apply to a lot of variations in skin tone. Most readers have relied on Mary GrandPre's illustrations which depict the trio as white. I love GrandPre's illustrations. I truly do. I want to get a tattoo of one of them eventually. However, I am so grateful that Rowling did not specify her characters race. While white has become default, it's now possible to point out to younger readers that the characters are not white. They can be anything you want them to be. And that can be very empowering. I am a huge advocate for the We Need Diverse Books movement. I think it's important that we not only have characters which readers can see themselves in, but which readers can see other people in. It's just as important for me (as a white girl) to read about the experiences of an African-American boy or Asian girl or Native-American non-binary individual as it is for them to be able to read about themselves. However, I also think it's important to leave racial identity out of stories--to allow every reader the ability to project themselves into the characters without canon saying, oh well you don't fit the description because of your race. So I loved that Rowling rarely states the race of a character. 

I cannot recommend Harry Potter enough. If you haven't read them, at least give them a try. No matter what your book tastes are, there is something here that will appeal to you. Seriously, if you think you won't like it for X, Y or Z reason, leave me a note in the comment, and I will try to persuade you otherwise. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Published:  June 2, 1999
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Received: I own all, but I borrowed this copy from the library

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This time he's a year older. He knows his friends, he knows his enemies, and he's ready to succeed in school. But a bumbling new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and a whisper that only Harry can hear lead Harry to a dangerous situation.

Chamber of Secrets has always been my least favorite book of the series. I really disliked Dobby when I was a kid. As the other books were released and I interacted with other fans, I found a place in my heart for Dobby, but my original dislike still lingers a bit. I tend to speed through his appearances. I still enjoy this book over all. There are so many parts to this book which affect the larger story arc. I kept finding myself wondering if Rowling had planned out the series from the beginning or if she just happened to be that good. 

This time I kept noticing Ron and Hermione's interactions. I kept thinking to myself, Ron you are jealous!! I see people complain about their relationship a lot, but I think most of that stems from the movies. The movies don't develop Ron and Hermione in the way the books do. In the books, their relationship becomes obvious from this book. There are even hints in the first book. But the movies don't have the same depth. 

While this is my least favorite, I still love and recommend it highly.

Published: July 8, 2000
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Received: I own all of them, but I borrowed this copy from the library

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his fourth year at school. Harry gets to attend the Quidditch World Cup with his friend, Ron Weasley and the Weasley family.When Harry returns to Hogwarts, he finds out that Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament for the first time in a long time. Although only students over the age of 17 are allowed to enter, Harry gets pulled in to the tournament. He has to survive three obstacles and his school year. 

Goblet of Fire is where the series starts to verge from middle grade into young adult. It gets dark. Rowling gives readers more questionable character. She asks readers to interrogate the characters we know and love and their actions. It's a massively important book to the series. It creates the arc for the next three books. It makes me cry every time. 

Harry's own moral character is called into question multiple times during this book. He's frequently accused of lying. I kept thinking, why are people suddenly convinced Harry is a liar? He's never been one before. But I realize that this is typical of growing up. Even when kids are telling the truth, adults suddenly question their every word. 

This reread also made me super emotional about Neville Longbottom. I love Neville so much. I've always loved his character. But I've read a lot of meta about Neville since I last reread the series, and it's made me consider his character in a whole new light. And Goblet of Fire really tells readers the most about Neville to this point. He becomes a fleshed out character in this book. It's not just Neville the Forgetful. It's Neville who has a backstory and a past.

If the thing that keeps you from reading Harry Potter is its middle grade status, this book will make you change your mind. 

So lovelies, leave me a comment about your favorite Harry Potter book! Or scene! Or anything!! I can literally talk about Harry Potter all day long. Also, I know I skipped Prisoner of Azkaban, I just reread it a few months ago for class, so I figured I would catch the rest of the series and include that reread for this time. 

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