I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on the reasons why I was suspicious, and what eventually led me to change my mind, and we’ll start with one of the books that I had a most potent aversion to prior to diving in: Harry Potter.
Why I Thought I’d Hate It:Where other kids weren’t allowed to read Harry Potter because their parents thought it was unwholesome and dangerous, I didn’t read it because I was too busy avoiding it like the plague.
I mean, the kids who liked these books were alarmingly passionate about it, and had their own weird lingo with spells and crushes on people named “Hermione” and a strong dislike for some Malfoy kid. They couldn’t even say the name of the villain out loud. Clearly, these people were crazy. Every time I thought of Harry Potter, fear panged my heart.
Why, you ask? Because every friggin’ time we turned on the TV in a motel, or wherever we were, Harry Potter would be on (not unlike today, except there were only two movies out), and it would always be on ONE scene. Harry. In the woods. Facing a haunting figure, dripping silver blood, over a slaughtered unicorn.
EVERY TIME it was the scene in the Forbidden Forest, I tell you! EVERY TIME. I was a traumatized six-year-old. I refused to ever contemplate reading such a scary, murderous book that was clearly designed to give children nightmares and make them suffocate on their dreams.
What Changed:Now, among my peers there was almost no criticism of the series. I was often told about how good it was, and how I should totally read it. I was among a lot of other students that encouraged the reading of Harry Potter, and at home, I was always encouraged to read everything anyway.
By the time I was in second grade, I was starting to feel a little more grown up, and a little more comfortable in my reading habits. There was a “Reading Counts” program that rewarded students for reading the most and hardest books in their grade level, and in the end there were Reading Counts parties. I went to the third grade party, because I could compete better with the people who were older than me, and I was a very good reader for my age.
Prizes, pizza, drawings, getting out of class, etcetera, etcetera—I’m sure you had parties in elementary school, too. Anyway, on this day, I ended up with a prize I was willing to follow up on: a Harry Potter journal. I would read these books, I decided. I would take whatever terrors this “J.K. Rowling” person spun and be just as hardened as everyone else in my class.
Why It Turned Out I Loved It:Turns out Harry Potter is a fantasy series for children, not a horror series for deviants. Just because they abbreviate their names the same way, it doesn’t mean J.K. Rowling writes books similar to R.L. Stine’s.
Initially, my parents weren’t too sure about Harry Potter because they’d heard criticisms, but they decided to read the book before me, and here we are ten years later, owning all the books, all the movies, Fantastic Creatures, Quidditch, and the Tales, and a bunch of other Harry Potter merch. I was wearing my Slytherin shirt for pajamas and then last week I realized it had been a few months and decided washing is good.
Harry Potter is a good series—there’s humor, adventure, friendship, love, tons of symbolism and references and history and EVERYTHING. My dad said recently that J.K. Rowling is a very detailed writer, and that has led to a great deal of her success, I think. She has a very big picture of the little details in her world, and it makes the story super rich and entertaining.
I’m pretty sure I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 19 times to date, although I’ve only read Deathly Hallows four times. I was a little late on the “broaden your horizons” thing. Still, by the time I was in sixth grade and the seventh book came out, I was fast enough to read it in like, a day, so I was able to move forward pretty quickly.
Anyway, from about third grade until the series finished in sixth grade, Harry Potter was my favorite series. It was everything I could have dreamed of. And it never scared me*.
*exception one: I had to stop reading in book two when Fawkes died because I was pretty sure that Dumbledore was going to murder Harry and the rest of the book was a detailed explanation of his funeral arrangements. My dad had to cheerlead me into reading the rest of the page because I was so scared.
*exception two: the werewolf scene from the third movie occasionally gave me nightmares; usually the kind where I got eaten. It’s been a long time go, so the tension has eased. Also, it’s not really J.K. Rowling’s fault.
Harry Potter. I was sure I would hate it, and then it became a love. Sometimes people do know what they’re doing.
Did you think that you were going to hate Harry Potter when you first read it? How did the book compare with your expectations?
(Also, as a last note, I breezed through the first two books in a matter of weeks, and became interested in seeing the movies. I had to see Chamber of Secrets first because it was the only one available at the library, and if I recall correctly I watched it about sixteen times in one week. Once I got into the series, the movies were not a hard sell.)