Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)

Ah, finally. The great HP re-read has moved out of super juvenile books and is inching towards the dark and twisty. This is also where the movies start getting better, and where the distinctions between the two become more extreme. The biggest difference between these two is the growth in Hermione – and not just the fact that in the books she’s still described as bushy haired and big toothed an awkward. They couldn’t help that Emma Watson became very pretty as she got older. Book Hermione is very smart. Exceptionally smart. She keeps appearing and disappearing from classes. She’s doing more homework than humanly possible. This is all typical Hermione behaviour. But what we get in the book that isn’t in the movie is that this girl does not deal well with stress. Seems strange when we think about where these kids are headed. You know that scene in the movie where Hermione punches Draco in the face? It’s pretty rad. It’s exceptionally rad. She’s standing up for her friends. It’s done out of protectiveness. It’s also pretty great in the book, but it’s done for a different reason between the pages. It isn’t so much an act of protection as a snapping point. She’s been buried under her studies, not sleeping, frustrated by divinations, fighting with her friends. Draco has always been a rotten little shit, and he finally pushes her over the edge. And unlike in the movie, we don’t get to see it twice.

The rewind portion of the book is much shorter. It doesn’t happen until basically the end of the book. It’s faster and far less aggravating. IT’s handled much better. When the rewind happens in the movie, I always have to muster up some gumption and prepare. It feels very long and like it might be missing something. Re-reading the book led me to one of missing pieces – Crookshanks. Man, that cat was crucial to the book. We never really get an explanation as to what exactly she (is it s ashe? I can’t remember, so I’m going withit) is and why she’s so intuitive – other than a cat and that’s what they do. I love that persnickety pain in the ass. Crookshanks is a major part of how the gang eventually figures out that Scabbers is Pettigrew. Well, not that exactly, but the cat does lead them to the events that end in that result. And Crookshanks actively pushes Ron’s buttons. The Crookshanks/Scabbers conflict spills over to create problems between Hermione and Ron. Just as that tension starts to rise, Harry receives his new firebolt broomstick. Best one on the market. With no clue as to who sent it. Hermione’s sure it’s from Sirius Black (and she’s right) and wants to make sure it’s safe for Harry to use. The boys obviously just want to use the broom. It’s the best broom in the world! Quidditch championship teams use it. If the teachers get their hands on it, they’ll screw it up. I agree with Hermione’s opinion. I don’t agree with her methods. She told on Harry – to a teacher… there are some very clear rules when it comes to being a teenager, and Hermione fails at a lot of them. She doesn’t just blindly do what her friends want to do – which is a good skill, but she also forces people to do what she thinks is right. All this ‘smartest witch of her age’ seems to be going to her head. I adore Hermione, but in the books, we’re reminded far more often that she is in her early teens.

Teen conflict is an overarching theme throughout the novel. Not only do we have the conflict between H/H/R and Draco + pals, but we have a decades old Gryffendor/Slytherin conflict. This is where we start to learn why Snape dislikes Harry so much. It all stems back to a prank Sirius and James played on Snape during their school years. A prank that’s never actually described – we just know that it almost kills Snape. More about this extremely complicated relationship between Harry and Snape is revealed throughout the series, but for right now, this is all we have. It also touches on the Dumbledore isn’t as great as everyone says idea I was talking about in one of my last posts. Sirius almost kills someone when he’s a student and he doesn’t get punished at all? Looks like the Headmaster’s favouritism tendancies started long ago. He’s clever and determined and he’s always thinking about the greater good. Bringing in Lupin to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, and refusing to give it to Snape, is another piece of his end game. Poor Snape, even though he’s excessively cruel in the books, it’s all he wants.

Lupin is definitely my favourite Dark Arts professor. He’s clever, and engaging, and makes his students like learning. This is something none of their previous teachers have been able to do. Students want to go to his class. Additionally, he seems like a genuinely good man – werewolf or not. Even knowing how it was going to end, the fake out with Sirius was well done. Make us think for a second that Lupin has been in on it the whole time. That he isn’t the good guy he pretends to be.  It might have been nice to have a book where the bad guy doesn’t wear the black hat. Yeah, maybe you could argue that Lockheart fits this role, but he wasn’t a bad guy-bad guy. He was just selfish. And maybe Tom Riddle. Maybe I’m talking myself out of my argument…

The storylines start to build much earlier in the book series than the movies. We actually meet Cedric and Cho in this book. I would have sworn it was the next one. It makes their roles in the next book more impactful. They don’t just appear to be used and thrown away. Especially Cedric. But we’ll talk about them more in book four. Ron’s personality really starts to build in this book. He claims to hate Scabbers, but when it looks like his rat might be dead, he is actually really upset. This foreshadows his future feelings for Hermione.

Lots of people say Prisoner of Azkaban is their favourite of the books, and this might be true, but it’s not mine. I think it sticks out for a lot of older readers because it is such a jump from the two previous books. It pushes the dark and scary. It starts to really show the kids that their actions have real, serious impact and that sometimes, bad things are irreversible. This is a theme that will grow more and more as we continue through the books. Also, it’s not crazy long. I remember book five being ridiculously wordy and long, so we’ll see if I feel the same way when I get to that one. This book makes me excited to keep reading the rest of the series.

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