A couple years ago, when I discovered Goodreads, I started doing the yearly reading challenges. I set my goals at 85 new reads books a year. No re-reads counted. So, that meant that there was no time for re-reading books I already loved. When I started this blog, I lowered the number of books for the year because I couldn’t just read and move on. And I decided re-reads would count, as long as I wrote a review for those books. A lot of this decision was based on the fact that I really wanted to re-read my Harry Potter books.
I love Harry Potter. Like love. Enough that I have a tattoo. Not Daniel Radcliffe inked in my skin or anything extreme like that. But the deathly hallows reside on my body.
But I had started to feel guilty about being a bad fan.
I haven’t read the entire series since… well, I re-read the Half-Blood Prince before the movie came out and it ruined my movie watching experience (I’ll talk about that more when I re-read that one) so I decided not to re-read the Deathly Hallows before those movies came out. And then suddenly it’s now and I haven’t read any of them since. So, what year was that? 2009. Too long ago. I’ve watched the movies a lot. I’ve marathoned them more than once. But that’s not the same as the books.
Summer felt like the perfect time to start this series re-read. Time to read about the Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone. Honestly, the changing of the name of this book makes me insane. I cannot remember which one is right. The one I own says Philosopher so that’s what I’m going with.
My favourite character in the series is, without question, Neville. I adore how he develops from this complete basketcase into a totally kick ass champion. He’s lovable and dorky and awesome. He totally could have been the chosen one – had the series not been titled Harry Potter. I remember arguing this point with someone around book five. They did not agree. Neville goes through this change in the movies, but not to the same degree. All my movie watching had me wondering if maybe I had made up how big his roles were in the books. Only one book into my re-read and my sanity is confirmed. Neville is way more involved in the book than he was in the movie. He gets caught out after dark trying to warn Harry about Draco. He’s sent into the forbidden forest with the rest of them. His friendship with them is developed, even if he does get himself into a lot of ridiculous situations. He is set up to stand up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, instead of just appearing in the common room at the right time. He’s already showing hints of the person he’s to become.
Speaking of characters being different, let’s talk about Draco. Now, maybe I’m having some warm and fuzzies because Tom Felton is a crazy nice guy, but the Draco in the book is a way bigger dick than the one in the movies. Now, I know I’m skewed because I’ve read the later books and I know what’s coming. I’m looking for different things than an initial reader would. The book’s Draco is a boy who single mindedly emulates his father. He mimics sentiments he’s heard from the grown-ups in his life. He looks down of people with less money or magic. He finds some lackeys to boss around and do his dirty work (much like his father does with the death eaters). He is constantly trying to get Harry in trouble. I had completely forgotten about the midnight duel and Draco’s obsession with Harry and his broom stick. In the movie, Hedwig drops off Harry’s broom and that’s that. In the book, it’s dropped off incognito and Draco tries to swipe it from Harry and tell on him when he realizes it’s a broom. He purposefully scares Neville while they’re in the forest. All these little moments come together to make a truly unlikable kid. Draco believes that his is the most important kid in the school and as a result he holds almost no authority.
One of the things I really like about the HP series is that it balances the idea of a childlike spirit against a childish attitude. The most influential characters aren’t necessarily the ones that are the most serious and down to earth. Rowling sets up this divide between the characters Harry respects and those he doesn’t. Dumbledore, Hagrid, and Ron all immediately appeal to Harry and they all have this inherent innocence and spirit of adventure. Those qualities that make children do things adults may shy away from. They take chances that don’t always make sense at first. Other characters exhibit the less favourable aspects of childhood – tantrums, bossiness, self-centeredness. Vernon, Dudley, and Draco all fall in this category. They are always demanding and irrational, even when they get what they want. And when they’re pushed, they usually fall apart. They just can’t keep it together. Harry cannot respect these characters and only does what they tell him when it serves his best interest. Hermione is this weird mix of these two qualities, but it’s not until she embraces her adventurous side that she becomes friends with the two boys.
So, what does this mean about Harry? Does he fall in the first group or the second? Honestly, I think he’s a little more childish. He finds an idea, decides it’s right, and refuses to listen to reason. He gets in trouble because he’s not very willing to take advice from others. I think Harry dislikes Draco so much because they aren’t that different. That idea of the things you dislike in others are the things you dislike in yourself. They have different end goals, but they have a lot of similarities. Harry’s saving grace is his friends. If Ron and Hermione – okay, let’s be honest, in the first few books it’s mostly Hermione – hadn’t been in Harry’s life, it’s entirely possible that he would have either died or ended up much like Draco. If he’d met people who never second guessed him and pumped up his ego, he could have easily become a pompous little douche like Draco. This similarity carries through all the books, even as the characters change. I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s as true in the books as the movies.
This book is aimed at a younger, pre-teen audience. It can be read to a child but also enjoyed as an adult. It ages well with the children who are reading it. They will be experiences the same emotional changes as the characters, even without the magic and the life threatening events. Now it’s time to go into book 2 (the one I like the least) and see what I’ve forgotten from that one.