Shortly after I posted my “April Goals + TBR” post, I decided it was time I give the Harry Potter series a reread. It has been over 10 years since the final book came out and in that time I’ve not given the books much thought. However, as I’ve been working on my novel, I had found myself thinking a lot about how J.K. Rowling writes and decided it would be worthwhile to revisit the books that have been in my eyes the epitome of young adult fantasy.
I did not think it would take me long to reread these books (I was wrong). Since I’d just started book blogging seriously again, I did not want to read these books and have nothing to show for it on the blog. Therefore, I started this post to keep track of my thoughts as I went through each book!
Originally I thought it would be one long post, but as I reached HP 3, I realized it would be better to break it into two parts, Part I covering HP 1–4. As I’ve since completed reading the final book, I’m pleased to announce you can expect Part II to come out in two days on Thursday (5/17).
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I decided I wanted to revisit the Harry Potter series again after reading Akata Witch, which I reviewed on Betwined Reads in April. It had been a long time since I picked up these books. There have been a few reasons I wanted to revisit the Wizarding world, but I must admit, I wasn’t excited to start at the beginning.
My favorite books of the series were the middle to later ones. However, I remembered that when I last reread these books, HP 1 and HP 2 were a breeze, so I figured they would not take away too much valuable time to read. Additionally, I didn’t want to have any regrets.
HP 1 is so cute. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful or dismissive. Rather, I think Rowling’s debut does a fantastic job portraying the 11-year-old Harry, Ron, and Hermione in a way that I think really makes for excellence character development in the series as a whole. At times it was frustrating to read how vehemently the trio believes Snape is the villain, but it makes sense with their limited life experience and emotional maturity that the meanest teacher had to be the bad guy. There is no way for them to grasp the complexity of his character yet.
I also adore how they become detectives in mystery the sorcerer’s stone and discovering who would want to steal it. It is also endearing that they are courageous enough to take on the villain when they think there’s no one else who will stop him.
(All this being said, I feel now at this age that I can understand Snape’s later frustrations with these kids and what he sees as arrogance. They’re very bold in their sense of agency and willingness to step in to solve problems where no one has asked them to.)
I feel like this book is ultimately the most “middle grade” of the whole series. They progressively get darker as early as the second book, but in HP 1 our trio is the ultimate symbols of pre-teen empowerment. As kid, it’s easy to feel like adults refuse to hear you or understand you. In this book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione prove they’re right and take on danger successfully. They become heroes by virtue of each of their individual strengths.
My favorite thing about rereading this book is seeing Neville. We all know that he could’ve just as easily been the “chosen one” and it is at times heart-breaking to see him in this book be blundering and constantly underestimated. That scene where Snape makes Neville think Harry was trying to get him in trouble on purpose just for the fun of it made me rethink my new found sympathy for the man.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
After I finished HP 1, I knew that I was ready to marathon the whole series. Therefore, I swiftly picked up HP 2. My main memory of this book was how much darker it was than the first.
HP 2 is very similar to HP 1 in structure. There is a mystery that the trio feels compelled to solve that leads to the climax in which Harry must once again face the villain who has wanted to kill him since he was a baby.
I loved the concept of the Chamber of Secrets and that the central conflict of HP 2 is that an unsolved mystery from the past is repeating itself in the story (see Truly Devious for a similar motif).
With the overall series in mind, we witness Harry’s first experience having people turn on him. It’s sad to see him question himself and whether he truly belongs to the house of Gryffindor and not Slytherin. This book also hikes up the dramatic social tensions that exist around “purity” of blood. Muggleborns are the target of the Heir of Slytherin and we see Draco represent the magic children who grow up in homes steeped in racism.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
HP 3 has always been my favorite Harry Potter book. It is certainly still my favorite movie. The time traveling aspect is what really blew my mind as a kid. It was so cool. This is probably one of the first books that I admired for its plotting. I also loved the idea of the marauders, the ultimate group of friends, to whom we’re introduced in this book.
Unlike the first two books, HP 3 is less about our trio being investigators on a specific mission and more about Harry dealing with feeling overprotected without quite knowing why and wanting to be able to defend himself. We see him become proactive in learning the patronus charm. Additionally, this book covers Hagrid’s efforts to save the life of his hippogriff Buckbeak, a sub-plot that becomes significant at the end when Harry discovers he must covertly save his godfather’s life.
For the first time in the series, the Wizarding world begins to open up in HP 3. We learn about the Knight Bus when Harry runs away from the Dursleys, see Hogsmeade, and learn of the fearsome wizard prison Azkaban. We also find out more about the circumstances that led to the death of the Potters, specifically the infamous betrayal. We also get to experience new magical beasts like boggarts, dementors, and werewolves.
One of my favorite things about this book is the long climax and denouement. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another book where it happens like in HP 3 where the denouement is just as thrilling as the climax. So much is unveiled in the Shrieking Shack, then right when we think justice will be served BAM! Full moon, Lupin transforms against his will, Wormtail gets away, and Sirius is captured. And that’s not the end of it, no! Harry learns that he can save him with the aide of Hermione’s secret time-turner.
I’m going to stop right there, even though that’s not even the end of it!
The only thing I can say I thought was over the top was the drama between Ron and Hermione over Crookshanks. I suppose it should be touching how loyal Ron was to his rat, but that thing was a pain in the butt. And to let it ruin a friendship is disgraceful.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
HP 4 was my least favorite book in the series growing up. I hated the movie (Harry and Ron with those shaggy heads of hair) and just didn’t like overarching plot surrounding the Triwizard Tournament. I also didn’t care for the teenage angst and drama it brought to our favorite trio, especially concerning Ron. (And this doesn’t really change after my latest rereading.)
Reading the book again, I was immediately pleased that with the movie so far removed from recent memory, I could envision the story differently. I know that my mind picked up on a bunch of different things now that I’ve read the book knowing how HP 7 ends.
I really like the new characters introduced in this book. If I have any complaints, it’s just that there were a few too many to follow. Barty Crouch’s family drama is really interesting, but we had to wait for it all to come out at the end. The stuff with Ludo Bagman seemed unnecessary, although, I liked how it helped establish the deep-rooted desire Weasley twins to build a joke shop. Rita Skeeter is one of the best worst characters ever, and while I wish she could’ve been omitted, I recognize her part in the overall series is to discredit Harry, Dumbledore, and their allies, which helps the public ignore Voldemort until it is too late.
Something I rarely think about in terms of these books is the social critique and political intrigue of the Wizarding world. In this book we learn just how difficult life was in the height of Voldemort’s power, between the hysteria of who was a Death Eater and who was acting of their own free will or otherwise. It’s scary to see how the Minister of Magic reacts to the news of Voldemort’s return. Scary because ignorance is a close friend of evil.
To wrap up my thoughts on this book, I did enjoy this book tremendously more than I did when I was younger. It also made me really dislike Ron. I can understand what he’s feeling, but I don’t like how he takes his jealousy out on his friends. And knowing that he ends up with Hermione is kind of disappointing to me. I feel like he’s really narrow-minded and a hot-head. It’ll be interesting to see if my feelings about him change in the last three books.
Ending this post on HP 4 ended up working perfectly as these first four books were all in the original box set my mother bought for me when the mania surrounding the first movie was just beginning. I was not an avid reader when I became aware of Harry Potter as a thing, and I’m not someone who can boast that these books made me fall in love with books. (I loved reading from the moment I learned to do it and could take pride in burning quickly through them.)
All I remember was the fun of reading these books at night in bed with my Dad. I don’t know exactly why it was him and not my Mom who read these books with me, but I’m glad it’s something I was able to share with him.
Revisiting Harry Potter | Part II will be out early on Thursday (5/17)!