Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Books I Thought I Would Hate: Harry Potter

I guarantee you that any book I’ve ever claimed to be among my favorites was also a book I previously thought I would hate. I don’t really know why, but I think it’s because I’m incredibly suspicious. And I am a malevolent reader. And, books in general are suspicious things.

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.

via Goodreads

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.

via imgfave

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.

via TheMetaPicture

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.)


  1. Hi!
    I've actually read the series once, and am in the middle of reading it again, and I've watched the movies about a million times! ;P So yeah, I'm a harry potter fan. I think both the books and the movies are great!! I didn't really have any doubt the books would be bad, because I've been watching the movies ever since I was little. ;)
    Great post!
    ~Katie@ sparklyambitions.blogspot.com

    1. Oh, that's really cool! They're both great and I realize that now, but I had some serious doubts as a kid, haha. I'm glad you're enjoying them to this day! :)

  2. Oh wow! This is good to know! I actually, despite being a diehard fan, have not watched all the movies. I watched the first 2 1/2 when I was quite young, and I've watched the 5th and the first 7th (so that would be the 7th, I guess) but I actually found them quite scary. Same with Lord Of The Rings... although I was 12 when I spent the whole Fellowship movie with my eyes squeezed shut and my ears blocked (the music makes everything so much scarier, okay?) I kind of grew up with Harry Potter- I read the philosopher's stone (which was actually the sorcerer's stone, since it was a US edition, even though I was in india) when I was 7, was maybe 8 or 9 for the 4th (i.e, old enough to handle scariness and even worse... oh horror! kissing) and the 7th by the time I was 10. Anyway, this is way too long, so nice post. P.S I know some Christians were wary of it, but don't you think there are so many godly metaphors. I mean there's the end of the 7th book and the symbolism of dumbeldore, but it gets way more biblical than that. Snape cuts of Fred's ear, just like Peter, for example)

    1. You haven't? :O You should see them! I'm surprised you find them scary, although I suppose I've seen so many other scarier movies that Harry Potter seems quite tame. XD I'm sure they'll decrease in scariness as you get a little older. It sounds like you've had many adventures with Harry, and that's totally cool! :D (And yes, many Christians have been wary, but I think that J.K. Rowling in her detail-orientedness is just super good at including all kinds of metaphors, not only of Christianity, but Greek mythology and a bunch of other stuff. It's so cool! I TOTALLY NEVER NOTICED THE EAR THING BEFORE. That's so weird. I need to think about that.)

  3. I remember my mom was one of those skeptical parents and for a long time didn't allow us to read the books. I think I was in grade seven when my older sister borrowed the books from one of her friends and my mom gave up and said that we were old enough to make our own decisions.

    Now, I can't imagine not reading HP. I love that series! I've read it twice now. The second time around was amazing because I paid more attention to all the foreshadowing and smaller details. My mom has even come around now, and we got her to watch all the movies (which she enjoyed).

    Super interesting post!

    1. Hm, that was a cool choice of your mom. There are still some times when my parents are leery of my book choices. Still, when you become a teenager then the lines of restrictions become much, much blurrier.

      I'm glad that you've had the opportunity to enjoy the series so zealously, and share it with your mom as well! It's always fun to share something good and awesome with other people. :D Thanks for reading, Sunny!

  4. "Turns out Harry Potter is a fantasy series for children, not a horror series for deviants" I can't, I really can't XD

    You had me full out laughing when you thought that the rest of the book would be a detailed explanation of his funeral. Oh Lord. In a similiar instance, I had vowed not to read Harry Potter, because EVERYONE was raving about it, and I was stubborn not to join in the hype. Also, the troll scne kind of freaked me out. Shoving a wand a into a troll's nose while gooey mucus poured out? *shudders* Yeah...

    BUT, IN THE END, I LOVED IT. When I did read it, I was forced to join the millions of fans. Loved the post, Heather!

    Nirvana @ Quenching the Quill

    1. XDD I was so convinced, though!

      I did not have a very good skill of predicting stories, and apparently picked up very little regarding Dumbledore's character in the first book. Maybe it was just that he was getting in trouble. But I can definitely get not wanting to join in the hype—I always like getting into a series a little late so I'm not one of the annoying fans waiting endlessly for another book. (Although with Sherlock, that's not always the case.) Trills can be totally nasty and scary, though, so I can't blame you there.

      AND NOW WE'RE BOTH FANS. Go us. Thanks for reading! :)

  5. Interesting, I actually always had the same prejudiction about Harry Potter, that it would be kind of a very dark and dire story, because of the movies's style, and then I read the books, which were mainly funny and full of cheery details.... Yes. And I read them, just to give them and try and then end up loving them :D

    1. It's funny, because now looking back on it, the first movie is the cheeriest one of the bunch. The style of the books and the movies are both very different! I'm glad you ended up enjoying them! :D

    2. I think I still like the books more. Especially the order of Phoenix, when Cho Chang was displayed far worse, than she had been in the books. I think I'll be the first to watch, when there will be another Harry Potter Franchise in twenty years or so (I hope there will) because I think, some things need a new chance. You'll never find a better Hermione and Ron, but surely a better Harry... :P

    3. And I think you're among many who like the books more. XD I never liked Cho Chang, so I guess I didn't pay attention to how she was portrayed, but that thought is interesting. If they do make another Harry Potter franchise, I'd be interested in seeing a darker-skinned Hermione—that would be interesting to me, a lot!

    4. Well, I actually didn't really love Cho Chang, but I hate that she was made a traitor just to make Harry look better and avoid the awkward café scene in the book. I mean, of course it's awkward, but the awkward things also belong to the story, don't they? And I always had the impression, that film makers leave awkward plotlines away, just to comfort the people more.

      A dark Hermione? Why not :D it never says that she has white skin, it's always only about her big teeth and brown, curly hair... which could refer to dark too! Though I think few people assumed dark hair of her when reading ;-)

    5. Huh, I don't remember that bit. I think I'll have to look it up again! Still, there's totally no reason to sacrifice awkwardness (except I suffer greatly when awkwardness enters the mix) but hey, making your audience suffer is part of the fun of filmmaking.

      Exactly! I think it would be fascinating to examine how that might change her character, if at all. I'm interested to see how future renditions of Harry Potter might portray her!

  6. I never thought I wouldn't like it. I actually first saw a movie and I instantly fell in love with it. I find it easier to see the movie first, so I'm not disappoinet if I'd imagined it difrently. But I love Harry Potter so much! I must admit I was hoping to get a letter from Hogwarts. I still wish It would exsist. :'') I love your blog, you're an amazing writter, topics are interesting and different and I just love it! :)

  7. Don't like self promoting, but if you'd really like to check it out... http://a-scent-of-happiness.blogspot.com/ :)

    1. Well, that's good! It did help to see the movies first a little bit, but I'm glad it got you into the story! I don't think I ever really expected to get a Hogwarts letter, but I longed for one, too. Thanks for stopping by!

      (And sure, I'm happy to visit!)


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