Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Thoughts on the Harry Potter Series

Warning: I didn't like a good portion of it, and that is what I chose to focus on. We are all entitled to our own opinions so respect mine and if you can't - don't read this. It's also kind of majorly long. Also, you may as well assume it contains spoilers for all the books.

I cannot help but wonder if I'd been a vastly different ten year old and started this series then if maybe I wouldn't have liked it more. Instead, I waited until my mid-twenties, assured that you were never too old for Harry Potter. Of course, it might not have made any difference when I read this book - after all, at age ten, I was knee deep in Agatha Christie novels and other adult directed mysteries. You see, when I was young, I hated anything weird. My love for fantasy and the abnormal didn't come until almost eight years later.

I'd like to note that while I did review the first book here, (at least, I think I did…) that review is seriously out-of-date. While I do think SS was the second best of the first four HP book's, it was a severely clich├ęd mass of Gary Stu-ness.

Simply put, I don't get it. It's like coming to the party twenty minutes late and hearing everyone talk about the great hors d'oeuvres - but finding cheese, lunchmeat and crackers. Now, while there's nothing wrong with that, there's nothing that needs to be talked about particularly glowingly, either.

I'm not saying I wish these book's weren't popular. Nope. I'm glad that they are. After all, a lot of people say that this is the series that got them into reading. But I think it's that reason right there that so many people love the books. It's nostalgia. Either that, or I just don't see the magic. (Could be both, too.)

I resisted the HP craze for a long time. Then I bought the first five movies in a pack for like thirty-five bucks. I thought they were pretty good. Okay enough, anyway, that I bought and watched the next two movies. (I bought DH pt2, just haven't watched it yet, as I've been waiting until I finished reading the series.) Honestly though, I expect less out of movies than I do books. Maybe that makes me a snob.

Books One & Two

So, the first book. I bought it. I read it. I tried my best to convince myself it was everything everyone else said it was. Why? Because everyone else loved it. Because I'd already failed with Lord of the Rings and I didn't want to with Harry Potter as well. (Of course, I do love the LotR movies.)

But I didn't feel it. In reality, Harry Potter is everything I dislike in heroes. He's entitled. He's the prophesied one. The only one that can defeat the villain. Not because he's the best. Just because. Because the author says so. He's got dead parents. He lives with abusive relatives. Because Harry was loved, the villain started melting (or something) when he touched Harry. (Until writing this, I had no idea that the Deus ex Machina started this early, but Harry would have seriously been dead if not for that convenient (at least from the hero's perspective) little detail that wasn't mentioned before and that, I think, the only other time it was mentioned was in the final book.)

Before I go any further, there's something you need to know about me. I hold children's literature to a different (and somewhat lower) standard than I do young adult and adult fiction.

To me, the first two books are firmly 'children's' novels. As such, I'm probably a great deal less harsh to them. (Also because I actually remember more of those movies than I do any of the others…)  (Researching a bit on the internet reminded me why I liked CS. Tom Riddle. And the Phoenix. Yeah, I like Tom Riddle as a character - just try to tell me he isn't fascinating - and my teenaged brain thought he was cute. I've based liking characters on worse reasons than that.)

Book Three

Now, this leads us to Prisoner of Azkaban. My favorite of the movies. There were so many things I liked about the movie and it seemed to be having 'growing pains'. Not still a child, not quite a 'young adult'. It was a turning point of the series, I think. Things started getting more serious with the appearance of dementors and we finally got a competent DADA teacher. (Must not fangirl over Remus Lupin.)

I honestly didn't care for the book as much as the movie, but I still found it enjoyable. While I hate time travel when handled poorly, this was merely okay because, while it was unexpected, it wasn't totally out of the blue. 

Book Four

Then I read Goblet of Fire. I found the movie almost tolerable - mostly because I loved the idea behind the Tri-Wizard Tournament (and things happened quickly enough to allow me not to focus on the shortcomings).

Only wizards of a certain age can enter the tourney. Each of the three schools will only get one representative. Sounds fun.

The participants are chosen but *gasp* what's this? A fourth name pops out of the hat. Harry Potter! Even though he's underage and the Hogwarts rep has already been chosen. Harry Potter's just so awesome that even the laws of magic don't apply to him. Our hero. (Seriously, I know why his name was in the goblet, but was it ever explained how a fourth name was chosen? I don't remember hearing it.)

That was seriously the defining moment that the series lost all credence with me. Even the movies never recovered from that. At least the movie, however, gave me a decent death scene. The book… Well, it was pretty much, 'the character was cursed then fell over, dead'. (I'd heard things that made me worry about the other deaths of this series - and then I read Order of the Phoenix.)

Book Five

Harry Potter and Contrived Secrets (also published as Harry Potter and How Poor Communication Kills)
Order of the Phoenix was my second from least favorite of the movies (only after Deathly Hallows Pt: 1) and the book was my least favorite of the first five. Protagonist-Centered Morality is actually a thing. I suppose we could also call it 'Moral Myopia'. Seriously, just re-read that bit with 'Snape's Worst Memory' and Harry response to it. 'I'd only do it to someone that deserves it' indeed!

Okay, go ahead and say it - he's a teenager. Teens are known to be self-centered and 'everything is about me' is something of a mantra for them. I know. I was a teen once. But that doesn't mean I need to like when the characters are self-centered and the narration feeds it. And it certainly doesn't mean that I actually want to read about someone like that.

Finally, the death scene. It should have been heartbreaking. It should have been. But instead the character literally 'went behind the veil' during a fight. I'm sorry. What? How's this - Is it even - I can't. Sorry. Sorry… But, really?

Book Six

Next came The Half-Blood Prince. I waited a long time between OP and HBP and I'm both glad I did and wish I hadn't. Because this book…This book was and is awesome! Without a doubt, my favorite of the books and missed getting a full five stars from me by a hair.

This is what I wished the whole series could be. Why? Honestly, I don't know. (And the only theory I've got is one that puts me in a bad light. Which books do I like? The ones that feature Tom Riddle.) I can actually see myself re-reading this book because it was so great - and it made me enjoy nearly every minute of it.

Book Seven

Now, after finishing The Deathly Hallows I…am exhausted and have borderline zero interest in anything to do with this series.

While there were moments - probably two or three in the entire book - that I actually liked, as a whole - and do forgive me all you awesome bloggers that love this series - I hated this book.

There, I said it. *sigh of relief* I feel better now that I got that off my chest. Now let me hide as people start throwing rotten fruit at me.

I really couldn't stand so much of this story. It took me something like six weeks to read because it was so painfully slow and boring - and because I hated Harry Potter every step of the way in this book.

And, seriously, what the hell! So now it's a case of 'our enemies do it so we can too' about the 'unforgivable curses.' Seriously, when Potter used them, it was bad enough in a isn't-he-just-perfect sort of way. But then, other people start doing it. So, the moral of the story is that good will only prevail if it lowers itself to the level of evil? Blerg. Clear cut good vs. evil - so the book tells you and heaven forbid you disagree. (And the less I say about the final 'battle' the better.)

Finally, the deaths in this series are…vapid. There's nothing to them and I totally never felt choked up. Seriously, all these people are dropping like flies and I didn't care. Even some of the people I liked bit it, but there was nothing from me because the entirety of this book felt so emotionless. And, in truth, I thought all the deaths in this series were poorly written. When people die, I want to feel emotion not…nothing.

Final Thoughts

I understand. I do. A lot of the people I hear talking about these books also say they were there for the midnight release of one or more of them. They grew up with these books. I know. They started reading them when they were about the same age as Harry in the first book and they grew up with the characters. I understand all this. I know what that's like. I understand the nostalgia. Things that I liked when I was younger still have a place in my heart. Things like Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'll admit that they're cheesy and kinda corny - but I still love them. So I understand the love that the people who grew up with Harry Potter feel towards the books.

But, for me, for enjoyment, I gotta say, as a whole, this series just wasn't for me.

Whew. These thoughts have been percolating since I read the third or fourth book and I'm glad to finally get them out there, even if I'm not agreed with. At all.