Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Happy Easter! Even though today is a holiday, it’s still a Sunday, which means it’s time to talk about something nerdy.

nerdy side

Maybe you don’t consider Harry Potter to be a nerdy indulgence. Well, when it comes to my interests, reading gets thrown into the same group as anime, video games and manga. It’s all a part of my nerdy obsession. The only real difference between Harry Potter and all those other things is that I really can’t call reading the book an indulgence. I’m sorry friends, but reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was more about completing what I started than the actual enjoyment of reading.

I was 13 when the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first released. Just like that, everyone went nuts. It seemed like even people who hardly ever read picked up this book and fell in love. I wasn’t interested then and, frankly, I wasn’t much more interested when I recently picked up the book. Since this series has gone so far as to inspire a theme park, I thought I’d force my way through it. It has to get good at some point, right?

In full disclosure, I didn’t expect this book to be great. When I reread my favorite YA series as an adult, I found the first two books to be a bit simple. After that, the story gets darker and more complicated. Even though I probably would have never gotten into the series as an adult, the nostalgia keeps me going until the series gets good. That’s what I expect out of the Harry Potter series.

Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was agonizing until about half-way through. I found the dialog and descriptions to be extremely bland. The names for many of the people, spells and places seemed unnecessarily silly to me. I’m sorry guys, it was just bad. I don’t understand how this book became an overnight sensation.

Half way through the book, around the time a troll made an unwelcome appearance at the school, descriptions started to get better. As it became more entertaining to read, the story started to take some turns that seemed unbelievable, even for a story about a fictitious wizard school.

Specifically, I did not like the little jaunt into the forbidden woods used as punishment for 11-year-olds. Really? That’s your punishment. Was the plan to scare the poor children away from the school or does the administration get some sick enjoyment out of telling families their child has died? I know that adventure was important for the plot to move forward, but I just could not get past the idea that this was a punishment. The school should have listened to Mr. Flitch and hung them from chains or something. At least then they would be in an enclosed space, safe from any risk to their lives.

The other thing I really didn’t care for was how Harry and Ron often thought of Hermione. Even after they became friends, it still felt like they looked down on her for taking such interests in her studies. In a way, this also worked well for me as the reader, because I connected with that side of Hermione.

If you’re wondering, yes, I would often get wrapped up in my studies. Yes, I have asked a teacher why they gave me an A- (if it’s not 100% than that means there’s room for me to improve). Yes, I have raised my hand after being given an assignment to write a report just to ask if there was a limit to how long the report could be. What can I say? College was my ticket out of my small town and college was my ticket to a career. These were not things I took lightly.

We’ve established that I’m a bit of a nerd, right? Right, moving on then…

If not for the insistence of a few friends and my own desire to see what all the fuss is about, I probably wouldn’t move on to the next book. I’m unimpressed. There is no need building within me to attend Hogwarts. No, I’d much rather attend St. Vladimir Academy.

There are six more books to go through before the end of the year. That’s six more chances J.K. Rowling has to turn me into a wizard fanatic. Here’s hoping the second book is at least a little better.

Harry potter

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60 thoughts on “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling”

    1. Is that what they’re called? Harry Potterites? I guess that’s no more ridiculous than any of the names in the books. I am not in any way inclined to read the rest of them after this, but I’m going to just to say I have. At least then I can say “I hate Harry Potter” and have real reasons for feeling that way. Who knows, maybe they’ll convert me by the seventh book.

      1. I confess to making that up – maybe they prefer to be called ‘Potties?’ Who knows lol. I did think it was fairly childish also. It was probably meant for the kids though I suppose, so I shouldn’t be too surprised at that. What did surprise me was the number of my ‘mature’ friends who read these books and thought they were great. On the basis of the first book – I don’t see it.

        1. Exactly. I was 13 when these came out. Peers and adults alike were obsessed. I didn’t see it then and I don’t see it now. The first book is pretty lame. My only hope is that they get better, or reading this series is going to be misery. I’ve read plenty of other YA books that are better than this one. Why was it Harry Potter that made the splash?

      2. May be, if you read the 4th and the 6th ones first instead of going serial, you’ll have a better opinion of the poor lady and her book. 6th I vouch for, it is darker, there is more conflict inside each character, they make tough decisions 😛 (you might laugh on that after you’ve read the book). It is not super-awesome-epic book of the century but it is nice, that is an accurate adjective to define it.

        1. I can’t stand to read books out of order, though. I can’t even do that with T.V. I’ve recently started watching Star Trek, but I insist on watching the original series first. It’s not nearly as good as the handful of episodes of Next Generation I’ve seen, but i’m determined. I hate doing things out of order.

          Don’t worry. I’ll get to the 4th and the 6th. If I only accomplish one reading goal this year, it will be to read the whole Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has six more books to turn me into a Potterhead.

            1. I’m just tired of people telling me to try it. And, I have YA series that I want other people to try which I’ve found, when I reread them as an adult, weren’t as great in the beginning. If I’m telling people to ‘just make it through the first two books’ for that series, than I will accept that challenge for this one.

          1. Because my mom really loves it and keept getting me to read them and I read them all in 4th grade and when i got older I read them all again and loved them all even more. Trust me they are great once you give them a chance and enter the world of harry potter

  1. I read the first book because of my son reading it and wanted to read something with him. I found the first book a bit childish and a straight RIP OFF of Lord of the Rings (do the comparison . . . it’s ridiculous), BUT J.K. Rowling does something that many authors cannot do: she takes something that belongs to someone else and makes it her own. Someone once wrote: Great writers don’t plagiarize. They just out right steal. As one moves through the Potter series, it is incredible how the series matures as the children grow up. The descriptions become less childish and more in-depth. There is an increase in the number of syllables in the words within the dialogue and narrative. What I find amazing is that as my son grew up and his tastes in reading changed and matured, so did the series.
    My unsolicited advice is don’t give up on the series. Potter is a good read. The movies have caused a lull in the imagination of many readers, but it is worth the read.

    1. The Lord of the Rings is on my to read list, but I’ve only seen the movies so far. I guess I don’t remember them well because I don’t recall a big similarity. I’ve heard the same thing said about The Wheel of Time, though. I’d say Robert Jordan made that his own, too. Both the Wheel of Time and Harry Potter seem to follow different plots than Lord of the Rings, though, so I really don’t see it. Is it just because they have similar magical creatures?

      That aside, be assured that I do intend to read the whole series, even if I have to force my way through it. Everyone tells me it gets better, so I don’t expect to feel this way about every book. I tried to read the series in college, but the movies were too close to me. I started up again now because I’ve avoided the movies for years. There is plenty I can’t forget, but they are distant enough that I can finally enjoy the books without feeling like I know the ending.

    2. You said everything I would have said but much more in depth and better 🙂 The first book is definitely the worst/blandest – I felt when I got to the end, all the adventure set plays at the end of the novel in effect amounted to nothing… but once you read on into the series you understand why it had to happen that way. It’s interesting that the series became such a big success with the first book, as to me it’s the way the plots and characters across the seven books mesh together that make the series so impressive.

      1. Yeah, I think that’s what blows my mind more than anything else. It’s no surprise to me that the books get better as the story moves along. What is surprising was how crazy everyone got after one book. I can only imagine it’s because children were really into it which promoted their parents to read it. Finding the book to show good role models for their children, they became fans as well. It’s the only logical explanation I can find.

        1. I guess it was new at the time as well. There’s a certain childish “cuteness” factor to all the weird names for things and I think we underestimate the pull of that for children. It takes a certain gift for an author to provide that – I know I haven’t got it!

  2. My sister tried to get me to read the Harry Potter stories. People have different tastes in reading material and that’s not mine. She took me to 2 of the movies. It just isn’t my genre. That is no reflection on the brilliant author who conceived the stories, just that not everyone likes the same thing.

    1. See, that’s why my dislike of Harry Potter is odd. It is the type of book I would usually read. I saw all the movies and didn’t hate them. I also didn’t think they were anything to go nuts for. I guess I’ll find out what I missed all those years ago. At least then I can say they’ve been read.

      1. I prefer SciFi and not wizards and magic. But there is some SciFi out there I’m not impressed with, either. It just means you have a mind of your own if you’re not willing to swallow anything out there. 🙂

        1. My preferences are all over the place. I get really hooked on Urban Fantasy – that’s my guilty pleasure. Beyond that, I like classics and fantasy. I’ll read just about anything, though, if it looks interesting.

  3. lol Love the comments… As a “potterhead” (that’s the official term) 😀 I love the books and I loved the movies. However, you’re review is appropriate. The first book is the shortest and the simplest of the series. But as you read along you will find that events, people, and objects that appear irrelevant in the first book are actually pretty important as you move along. I am sorry to say that the second book may not be much more impressive. Things start to get interesting in the third book. I hope you stick with them.

    1. I do plan to stick with them. That’s what people tell me – that I just need to make it to the third book. Fine, I’ll do that. It still seems odd to me that this became an overnight sensation if it doesn’t get good until the third book though.

      1. You’re right. That is odd. I didn’t start reading them until the 4th book was out. I think it became an overnight sensation for kids but it took a while for YA and adults to pick it up. I hope they don’t disappoint you.

        1. We’ll see. Most people tell me to stick it out through the third book. Some have even told me the second is their least favorite. So, I probably won’t start to like the series until at least the third book.

  4. I’m another Potterhead and I LOVE all of the books (the third, sometimes not as much). The first book is simple, but remember it was written for children. The books get much better as they move on, because I think she starts writing for adults. Part of my attraction to Harry Potter was how simply written it was. I never had to re-read a section and never once did I feel a jolt on the flow. But I admit, I started the books when I was about 9. Although I re-read them almost every year.

    1. This first book came out when I was 13 and it was a hit among every in my grade. I had already moved on to more complicated books by that point and wasn’t interested. I think I’m still like that today. I didn’t like how simply it was written. That’s one of my biggest complaints. I’ve ready YA books that have way more detail than that. But then, that’s me. I hear it gets better and aim to find out for myself by the ends of the year.

  5. Personally, i haven’t read the J.K. Rowling books but I’ve seen all the movies.. i heard the book are quiet different of the Hollywood-ation of the franchise.. Like the J.R.R. Tolkien Lord Of The Ring, written is 1940″s books.. “Just like that, everyone went nuts.” Because of the Movies, but at the time the movies were released. I had the audio books and would listen to it on my MP3..
    Just checked my audios books apparently i have Harry’s books to but i haven’t bother listen to them after i watched the movies..

    1. I saw all the Harry Potter movies, too. They weren’t bad. Honestly, they’re not even that different than the books, at least, not the first book. Everything is just so blandly described. Rowling somehow manages to make a magical world sound like the most boring place on earth for the first half of the book. It got better by the second half, but not good enough for me to really want to read the next one. I’m still just doing to say I have.

      The Lord of the Rings is another that I really want to read. I have the books but just haven’t gotten to them yet. I’ve read half of The Wheel of Time series and find it compared to The Lord of the Rings a whole lot. I’m getting the feeling a lot of fantasy has roots in that trilogy. After Harry Potter and The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings is next!

  6. I have read the whole series through multiple times (the second is my least favourite) and I have always thought that the final book was one of the absolute best wrap-up to a series that I have ever read. The story gets completely tied up, she references people, places and events from all seven books and shows how everything that’s happened was all meant to help Harry achieve victory over Voldemort.
    Also, once the series took off in popularity Rowling started writing the stories the way she really wanted to and not dumbed down so much, you’ll notice the difference starting with the third book but really by the fourth. Details, descriptions and nuances become much more involved and it’s easier to care about the characters and their journey.
    Good luck!

    1. It’s a shame she ever felt the need to ‘dumb it down’ in order to get popular. I was just thinking about that. Maybe these books that become really popular are so simple because even people who don’t read a lot can get into them. In order to do that, they have to be written a bit differently.

  7. When I tried reading Harry Potter back in the day TK I had the same reaction as you; the names and words she created just seemed to be needlessly silly. I know the harry potter people will hate me for this, but I just felt that Rowling was guilty of overkill with the names, and was simply not very creative in the dynamics between the characters; everything was so typical and unusually boring. I often wonder if it wasn’t for the colorful cover on the book; would it have become such a famous series? How much did that book cover influence sales? Because lets be honest; there are a lot of other YA series that much better reads.

    1. There are so many YA series that are much better reads. It really is a shame. I’m starting to think she wrote it that way in order to attack non-readers. She made it simple enough that anyone could read it. Those of us who enjoy reading more complex books would probably be turned off. Unfortunately, there’s aren’t as many of us as there are general or non-readers. My friend was more than happy to give me the second book, but I’m going to pick up something a little more complex before I move on to the next one.

  8. I would take the first book with a grain of salt not just because it’s the first book in the series, but also JK Rowling’s first book period. The style evolves over the series and you can see her writing improving with each book.

    I agree with the comment about the series overall – the first two books are tough to get through and with the third, things really start moving. But what is most impressive is the overall series and how it was built. Details, backstory and scenes from the first books come up in the later books – keeping all of that together and not having it seem obvious is quite a feat.

    1. I’ve had a friend mention that too. She said something about the first book and seventh being related, the second and sixth being related and the third and fifth being related. I’ll continue on and see what happens. I’m going to read the series this year whether I like it or not.

  9. There may definitely be some taste and preference issues here. I actually liked the “needlessly silly” names – they made me smile. To me, the entire first book (and second book) was very much “Oh look at this magical world as seen through the eyes of a child!”

    I will be very interested in what you think of the later, darker books.

  10. I grew up with those books and really enjoyed one thing about them – the characters grew as well as I got older. Also I can’t remember reading any good children fantasy books with a similar topic older than Harry Potter and in a comporable quality.

    1. I do think that growth is part of Harry Potter’s attraction. There are a few books that do that, but Harry Potter did that well. For me, this first book lacked depth and description. I was already reading more complex stories when Harry Potter came out. It may be these just aren’t the type of books I can get into.

  11. Great Review!!
    Though dont be like hermione she is messed up in her own academic way trust me i have read all the books over 8 times. I am a Harry Harry Potterite

    1. I only have the first book behind me. So far, I don’t see anything wrong with Hermione’s behavior. The only thing that she should watch is how much she tries to pressure others to study. That sounds weird, but she shouldn’t be pushing her own views onto other people.

  12. Harry Potter is like whipped cream. It’s hugely popular empty calories loved, or beloved, by many. It’s a mash-up of YA mildly comic adventure fantasy science fiction with mainstream sensibilities and a dash of Wodehouse (which accounts for the goofy names). It’s simple, silly, fun, but some find SF and fantasy generally bland or hard to swallow. Or maybe it’s the silly goofiness of the UK Wodehouse flavor.

    Plus you mentioned: much of what happens to Harry in those books amounts to rather horrific child abuse. Even Harry’s friends repeatedly deliberately put him in awful danger! 🙂

    It’s SF fantasy in the same vein as Tolkien, Jordan and others, but I thought Rowling still made it original and interesting. I’m a long-time SF fan, and not usually big on fantasy, so I’m a hard sell. I enjoyed the HP books and movies as much as I enjoy cake and beer!

    But I can understand someone not finding them tasty.

  13. I never could get into this series. I found some of the movies okay to watch, but the books were honestly not that exciting for me. My younger siblings seemed to like them though.

  14. I read the first book and it was just average really. Then I came across the fourth book and I got hooked. And the 5th and 6th books are just really good. So I hope you get there 🙂
    I’m a book person and I hate it when the movie adaptations have entire scenes missing or when they change things around. So needless to say, I can only watch a Harry Potter movie for 3 minutes before I feel like tearing my hair out. What’s your take on the movies?

    1. I saw all the movies a while ago. I’ve actually made a point to avoid them these past few years in preparation for reading the books. I tried reading the series in college but the movies were too familiar. Nothing was a surprise, which made the books crazy boring. I never made it past the first one.

      I enjoyed the movies enough, as movies. I guess I didn’t see anything spectacular about them. Maybe I’ll like them more once I get through the series.

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