Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
What the Back of the Book Has to Say:
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy - until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!
Why I Picked It Up:
An optimistic attempt to reread the Harry Potter series before the seventh movie. Considering I'm seeing the movie on Friday, you can consider this a failed mission.
What I Think:
Let me get this on the record to begin with: I love Harry Potter. Starting at book four, I was at every midnight book release, dressed in pajamas if that would get me a discount. I'm going to opening night on Friday, dressed in a Neville Longbottom shirt and hoping beyond hope that my friends and I will get the special keychains they're giving out for some of the premieres. I know more than I should about the mythology and could make bad Harry Potter reference jokes with the rest of them.
Back when I was younger and had more time in my life, I used to reread the Harry Potter books all the time. In recent history, though, I can't remember the last time I read any of the books. Probably the last time I touched one was when I read the seventh book when it came out three years ago. Unfortunately, school and life got in the way but suffice it to say, Harry Potter is never going to leave my mind. I'm sure I'll still be talking about it well into my old age. Exactly why I was so excited to reread the books; it had been so long.
That's why I say, with great sadness, that the first book was a bit of a letdown. It's like rewatching your favorite childhood movie again in your twenties and realizing it's not what your mind has built it up to be. All the scenes you remember are there but they're only a page long. There isn't much character development and it's too fast paced to build the fantastic world that you have in your mind. Logically, I know this is Harry Potter, the same story I've loved for over ten years but somehow, it's not the same as what I remember.
Now, I'm sure that the books improve with time. The only book I didn't like the first time I read it was book six and I know there were a lot of people in that boat with me. Like anyone, JK Rowling's writing gets better with time and this is her first novel, written before it became a phenomenon. And it's a children's book, as much as we tend to forget it. Of course the first few novels are going to be more concerned with plot and action to keep its young readers interested. No ten year old is very interested in character development.
To be completely honest, what makes the Harry Potter books amazing is not actually the plot, as much as most readers don't want to admit it. Harry Potter has enraptured a generation of young people, myself included, because the world it has created. It's all the little details: the spell names, the throw away facts, the magic and the mystery and the comfortable feeling the emanates from every word. There is something that feels like childhood and home and a place you can always go back to that has enchanted us all.
If you want a quick journey back to Hogwarts before you see the seventh movie, I would recommend watching A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel on Youtube. If you somehow haven't discovered these gems yet, it's a Harry Potter themed musical comedy put on by a group of students at University of Michigan, the lead of which, Darren Criss, has recently found himself on Glee. The great thing about AVPM is that it isn't Harry Potter, it's Harry Potter as we see it, with all the references, in-jokes, and sarcasm. It's everything you love about the world, without the anticlimax of ruining your perfect childhood memories. A perfect (and hilarious) solution.
See you at Deathly Hallows Part One!