I’m not a huge fan of Harry Potter. I was never swept up in the craze when the series was being published and I didn’t actually read the books for the first time until one of the later movies came out. Order of the Phoenix, maybe? Or perhaps it was Half-Blood Prince. I had seen the previous movies and found them entertaining so I finally decided to read the books. I didn’t like them. At all. Recently I decided to read through the series again.
The first time I read the series, I think it took me about a week to read them all. The only thing I took away from it was that J.K. Rowling was not a particularly good writer and that I didn’t actually like Harry Potter. Or Hermione. If I don’t like two of the three main characters, there’s a problem. And the writing! I’ve read a lot. And the good and bad thing about reading a lot is that you know what you like and are able to make quality judgments on what you are reading very quickly. The Harry Potter series is good. But it is not great.
So I read through the series again over the past month or so. I still have a lot of the same problems with the series that I did the first time I read it. I still didn’t particularly like Harry or Hermione and I still don’t think that Rowling is a particularly good or creative writer. The idea of Hogwarts is pretty cool but the wizarding community is hopelessly insulated. Muggles know nothing about them as a rule except when a Muggle child happens to have magical ability. If they do, they get taken to Hogwarts (or Durmstrang or Beauxbatons) where they spend the next seven years learning about magical abilities. Hope they didn’t want to re-enter the Muggle world! Although I’m not sure pureblood wizards/witches have it much better. What are they going to do? Auror, journalist, teacher, or some other weird bureaucratic job at the Ministry I guess.
Harry has always bothered me in the books, as has Hermione. Harry has always accepted his destiny way too easily for me and his continued insistence on not accepting help from anyone on anything is pretty annoying. For somebody whose magical abilities never seem to be much more than average, Harry seems to be overbearingly conceited and self-confident that he, as an average teenage wizard, can overcome the most evil Dark wizard the world has seen in a long time. I realize that as the smart girl, I’m supposed to love Hermione but I can totally see why she doesn’t have any friends. She really is a nag and a know-it-all. (As a side note, what does Rowling have against librarians?)
Draco and Snape bother me as well. Draco is an appropriate villain for the first book. He’s a bully. But please explain to me why Draco is still an issue for these kids after 7 years? After their first year together, Draco should not have been anything more than a mild irritant. He’s a coward and a total jerk. Snape is absolutely ridiculous too. I know Alan Rickman as the sinister and darkly handsome Snape with the voice of pure silk is all the ladies’ favorite, but Snape in the books? He’s cruel and malicious for no reason and it’s kinda hard to buy into or care about his final redemption.
And that’s why I like the movies much more than the books. They are able to take the stories that Rowling wrote and improve a lot of what Rowling is not very good at, mainly characters. Harry, Hermione, even Snape and Draco in the movies are able to become characters and not the caricatures they are in the books. Yes, they had to leave a lot out of the movies that was in the books, including some material that probably would have improved the plot of the movies. But I own the movies and watch them. I don’t own the books and have no plans to buy them.
Overall, I think my main problem with Harry Potter is that their overwhelming popularity means that when I tell people I like to read a lot of fantasy, they immediately ask “Oh like Harry Potter?” If Harry Potter is your gateway drug to reading in general or fantasy in particular, awesome. Couldn’t be happier and many thanks to Rowling. But please don’t try to tell me that Harry Potter is quality fantasy material.
I’m going to try and pull together a list of books/series that are similar to Harry Potter and of a much higher quality. It might be my next post. It might not. (EDIT: I pulled together my suggestions for books that are similar but better than Harry Potter. Read them here!)
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am about Harry Potter!