Disenchantment with Harry Potter

On June 30th, 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Sorcerer’s Stone was released.  To this day, I still have no idea why calling it the Philosopher’s Stone would have been that big of a deal, nor do I understand how the books gained such instant popularity.

I’ve never read the books, but have committed myself to reading through the whole series this year. My friends have told me I just have to make it through the first three books and then I’ll get it. The thing is, I remember these books taking over the world in 1997. People were obsessed with J.R. Rowling from her very first book. I finished that book earlier this year and am now suffering through the second book.  I still don’t get it.

nerdy sideI’m not trying to say anything about the Harry Potter fandom.  Until I finish all seven books, something I fully intend on doing this year, I don’t think I have any right to judge. Even once I’ve finished them, how can I complain about someone liking something?

One some level, I understand. My favorite young adult series to this day is Vampire Academy. Last year, I read through the whole series for the first time in years. I was amazed at how childish the first two books were. It wasn’t until the end of the second book that things took a dark, complicated and adult turn.

Maybe Harry Potter is the same. The first two to three books were just to get people hooked. They had to be simple enough that people who didn’t read a lot could get through them and complex enough that avid book lovers would eat them up. This must be a young adult thing.

Either way, its agony forcing my way through these book. I admit, there are a couple of things that I enjoy. The troll in the first book was well detailed, as was the experience with the whooping tree (or whatever it’s called). Things are getting better. I just feel like there are young adults books out there who, even with their simple beginnings were far better than Harry Potter. I mean, there’s a theme park dedicated to Harry Potter. Certainly even the first few books should be reasonable good to read.

This photo, “little harry potter” is copyright (c) 2014 woodleywonderworks on Flickr and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “little harry potter” is copyright (c) 2014 woodleywonderworks on Flickr and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Maybe I’m just jealous. That’s a lie. I am jealous. I’m jealous because there are many other worlds hidden away in books I would love to step into instead of Harry Potter. I also hate how every young adult made into a movie tries to emulate what happened with Harry Potter. Does no one in Hollywood understand that the key to success is to make a movie as close to the book as possible? How many books have they shit on because they tried to turn the original story into something it was never meant to be ( please take a moment to mourn for the Vampire Academy movie and The Host movie).

All that said, I am committed to reading through the whole series. I doubt I will join the world in its Harry Potter obsession and I certainly don’t think I’ll ever want to see the theme park any more than another. I just want to finish it to see if I can figure out what all the hype is about. I certainly haven’t figured it out yet.



53 thoughts on “Disenchantment with Harry Potter”

  1. I concur! I’ve read a few of the books & have seen a few of the movies, but I will never understand the hype.

    1. I’ve seen all the movies. They weren’t amazing, but I enjoyed them. I tried to read the books in college, but I think I had so much of the movie in my head that nothing was surprising. While there are things I can’t forget, I figure now that I’ve been away from the movies for long enough, maybe I’ll see what everyone else sees…

      by book three….

  2. I agree that especially the first two books are a little dull for people who are interesting in more complex fantasy worlds. Still, I liked all the ideas which were new to me – the weird trainstation thing, the owl post, the quirks of the school building … and I enjoyed geeky, book loving Hermione. I stopped reading after book five for some years and finally read the last two volumes not that long ago – the last few books are darker and a little more mature than the first books, so I agree on your observation about young adult literature. (Have you ever read the “Animorphs” books? They start out pretty light and even humouristic in parts, and change a lot towards the end.) All in all the world of Harry Potter would have much more potential then what was used in the books – the further exploration of human nature and different takes on growing up/coming to age in a magic world could have lead to some wonderful places; and I wish there would have been more about all the kinds of magical books (forbidden books, biting books …).

    1. I’ll get there I’m sure. I have heard of Animorphs but never read them. I’m getting tired of the young adult gene. They all seem to have similar plots these days. I am going to finish the Harry Potter series and read everything Richelle Mead puts out there. Other than that, I have no desire for YA. It’s not that the stories are really that bad; I just don’t want to have to suffer for two to three books before the story gets good.

      1. Yes, they should do something about this plot thing :/ I still like some YA every now and then as easy reading when I just don’t feel like reading complicated literature on top of what I have to go through for university. At the moment though I’m reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and it’s awesome. Never read anything by Richelle Meads, maybe I should put her books on my list of easy reading.

        1. I love Richelle Mead ‘s adult books more than anything. Her YA is good, but it just doesn’t compare. I highly recommend her Succubus Blues series or her new Age of X series.

  3. My kids and I all love the Harry Potter books but I would agree that the first two books are very much establishing the setting and context and can be exposition heavy and dull in parts. The third book was my favourite of the series. That was the one that hooked me. My kids and I went on the studio tour in London when we still lived in Scotland and the detail in the props, sets and costumes was breathtaking. I think that degree of detail must say something for the immersive world Rowling created. My husband hates all things HP (he’s a LOTR fan) so I know the books and films to be not everyone’s cup of tea.

    1. I greatly prefer LOTR to HP. I’ll figure out what all this hype about Harry Potter is, though. The movies were rather great in how similar they were to the books, I understand. I imagine that is partially due to the detail they put into the props. The movies could have easily been cheesy if done cheaply.

      1. I’m not sure the two even compare really as the intended audiences differ and HP’s universe intersects and interacts with a familiar human world in a way LOTR doesn’t have to and is this less constrained. I view them by their own lites rather than comparing them.

  4. Good post! I got to the second book and couldn’t take no more. My daughter is 11 this year and strongly believes the owls will turn up and letters for Hogwarts will fire through our letterbox. Thx JK Rowling!

  5. Couldn’t agree more about the pressure to like them whether you do or not! I distrust the hype but would have to acknowledge that they got some children reading who might not otherwise have done so.

    1. I’m sure they did. The first few are easy enough to read that even those who didn’t read a lot could get through them. Once hooked, they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves.

  6. I usually like the book better than the movie, but I’ve not read the Harry Potter books. That being said, I LOVED the movies, so I really should read the books. 🙂

  7. The first few books by far are the weakest of the series. Book 2 being my least favorite. Book 3 saved the Harry Potter series for me. I’m still not sure what it was exactly that finally just made me fall for the books.

    On that note if you enjoy Alice in Wonderland inspired works a fantastic young adult series is The Looking Glass Wars. (I love them and I’m 31 lol)

    1. If you’re like me, there’s a part of you that always wants to finish a series you’ve started. At three books in, whether I like the series or not, I’ll have to finish.

  8. I never really got them either, but my 7 year old did, up until she was around 10. At that point, she moved into greek mythology and Percy Jackson. I think they are good for kids, and they probably appeal to the friendship dynamics, clear cut good/evil and the choices which come with that. But for adults…I couldn’t relate.

    Actually, the frustration of going outside and checking that Voldemort was not hiding in the tree in the back garden was reason to find the story tiresome on its own. But I never got them. Then again, my family didn’t get Lestat, and i thought he was the most marvelous undead being in the savage garden, so maybe, in my case, I’m just old.

    1. The clear cut good and evil is never something I’ve enjoyed. I like when the lines are more blurred. It makes for a more complex story.

  9. I agree that there are much better fantasy worlds then the one created by J.K. Rowling. But consider this point, you have’watched’ the story, so a lot of the suspense and mystery of the books have already been ruined for you, plus the book was written to be enjoyed in the childhood or may be teenage, and I assume you have crossed that :p
    Still I hope you’ll find that ‘adult’ element in the later books of the its series. Personally I loved Narnia better than HP series. His Dark Materials is also an exceptional series, and its adaptation is also remarkable. Do try that one 😉 cheers…

    1. I’ve made a point to avoid the movies and all references to Harry Potter for the past few years to forget as much as I can. I think I’ve finally forgotten enough, which is why I’ve picked them up again.

  10. I love this topic! I totally agree with you too, I’m so jealous of people that can get lost in a book series or even a TV show for that matter, that I can’t connect with. I always feel like I’m missing something! I never read Harry Potter but I loved the movies. You’ve definitely inspired me to make time to pick up the books!

    1. There are books I easily obsess with. When Richelle Mead’s book is released on the 29th, I can almost guarantee I’ll finish it within 48 hours. I read a six book series she wrote in one week. But it definitely takes a special kind of book to do that.

  11. Strangely, I had never heard of Harry Potter until the 4th book came out, and the newspapers were all “The fourth book is coming out of the most popular series ever made of all time, why haven’t you heard of it?” What little I knew about it made it sound like a rip-off of A Wizard of Earthsea, so being an elitist highschool nerd, I totally pooh-poohed it. I waited until over a year after the last movie came out and most of the hype had finally died down to even watch the movies; while I enjoyed them, it was interesting to realize just how much familiar I was with the already simply by cultural osmosis, to where nothing about it seemed new. Except for the fact that in my mind prior to seeing the movies, I’d transposed Dumbledore and Hagrid…

    But speaking of Earthsea, I am still sad that it seems impossible to make a decent movie out of the Earthsea books.

    1. That’s how I was. I refused to read the books when they first came out because I was going through a ‘I hate everything that’s popular’ phase. I have no idea if I would be just as into them as everyone else had I not thought like that when the books were first released.

  12. Definitely agree with how poorly they do with making movies from YA books. They tend to give over to “good looking, athletic mid-teen goes to a place of other good looking, athletic mid-teens, becomes their leader, saves the world”. Lightning Thief was a good series (as are his others) that got this sad treatment, trying to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight, and not letting the story and characters be something original.

    For a nice bridge from YA to Adult (once you’re done with Potterverse), I’d strongly suggest Brandon Sanderson. Any of his books. He’d make anyone jealous, writer or not.

    1. I have some of his books, though I haven’t read them yet. I’ll definitely get to him. I feel like Vampire Academy suffered when the movie came out. Compared to other YA books, it’s story was refreshingly different and unique. Then, when they made the movie, they tried to turn it into the next Hunger Games. While there are plenty of fighters in the series, it’s mostly a mystery. The first book is all about these crazy, creepy things that keep happening and trying to figure out why they are happening, or if the one character is going insane (due to reasons mentioned but not fully known until later books, insanity is a real possibility). I didn’t hate the movie, but it did the book no justice.

  13. The third book is the hook for the dark/older plot lines. It’s one of my favorite books ever. The fourth book, however, I don’t like much, so be prepared for that! 🙂 It’s totally worth it to get to the last three, which are amazing. Also, I’m not sure who told you the movie got it all. The first few are good because the books were so much shorter, but 5 and 6 leave out so much – even important things. There’s at least 50% more story in the books. The 7 and 8 movies were very well done… because there are two! 🙂 But there is still a great deal left out. Unlike a lot of YA series now, Deathly Hallows truly needed 2 movies to tell the story. All of that was to say, keep reading and you’ll find some stuff that you don’t already know, even though you have seen the movies.

  14. I actually talked to my writing teacher about this some time ago. She told me that her publisher had rejected Harry Potter even after it came out in Brittain, because the story itself was… I don’t remember her exact words, but something along the lines of “cliché” and “inconsistent”. I have to agree with this. Though I have read six of the books (still haven’t made it through the last one even though I’ve had it for years) and enjoyed most of them, half blood prince being my favorite… I’m not going to shut my eyes to the things that are wrong with the books.

  15. As a poor young girl who delighted in being dropped off at the 4 story library 10 minutes from my home, the day I discovered Harry Potter was indeed a strange one. I had just reached the 4th floor, the young adults/children’s section and stepped off the elevator to be surrounded by children I’d never seen there before dressed up as witches and wizards. I went up to the librarian’s desk and asked what was going on. “It’s a Harry Potter Party,” she told me as she typed away semi-uninterested. Then, I did something stupid, I asked her, “What’s Harry Potter?” Everyone there stopped what they were doing, everyone. They all stared at me in shock. I was then pushed into a room and handed 3 books as the people around me started talking about how awesome these books were. I check them out, took them home, got to the second chapter of the 1st book and gave up because that was some boring shit for my 12 yr old self. I wouldn’t touch a Harry Potter book for another 3 yrs. Not even the slightest bit interested. Eventually I read them all, found them slightly interesting. I’ve seen the movies. Why most movies based on books don’t follow the book plot, the world may never know. All in all, it’s okay, nothing to spazz out over. I mean, it’s no *insert any other book series here*.

  16. Perhaps it’s one of those books you have to read at that age to “get.” I read the first book in first grade, and the last book sometime in high school, so I practically grew up with the series.

    Not to say I’m a huge fan, though. It was just an enjoyable read, that’s all. From what I’ve heard, Harry Potter brought “darker” fantasy into children literature’s mainstream. It probably also benefited from timing. Children’s lit and YA was becoming more of a “thing” around then, and the movie industry was really capitalizing on that.

    So I guess all the right ingredients came together at the right time :/

    1. I do think all the ingredients came together at the right time, but I don’t buy the argument that it was meant for a specific age group. Enough adults obsessed over the series that I have to imagine it had something. Or, maybe it was just so simple that it was accessible to everyone.

      1. That’s fair. I honestly believe that if I read it now I wouldn’t be too impressed. In fact my impressed level dropped off quickly after the third book, which I believe is the best one.

        Now, reading as a person who has read and written a lot herself, I can (and do) find many literary flaws in the series. But to each their own. I mean, I still don’t get the point of Adventure Time but apparently it’s a work of genius for some!

        1. You and me both. I don’t get Adventure Time either. There were a ton of people cosplaying characters from the show at Anime Midwest, though.

  17. I also grew up the HP books – I read the 3rd one first, then the 4th, before reading 1+2 during Year 5 at school (age 9). I re-watched the films the weekend just gone as a present to myself for finishing my Masters thesis, and the first 4 films are terrible! But as a fan of the books, the films will never live up to the books as so much is left out. It taught me to not be afraid to be clever (like Hermione) and that things, even though tough, can get better. I had a difficult time from age 9 onwards and I related to the characters a lot. It’s nothing to be ashamed of to not like them 🙂

    1. wow, I don’t think I could do that – read them out of order I mean. I’m a bit obsessed with reading things in order. I had a hard time around that age, too. But all the popular kids and my bullies obsessed over Harry Potter. That made me want to avoid the series at all cost.

      1. It was just because I didn’t know it was the third one – I thought it was like other books where there’s a series but it doesn’t matter which order you read them in, as it’s the same characters and principle (I.e. like The Magic Key) then I found out I’d missed the first two!
        And that could be another reason why you really don’t like them – the association with the bullies.

  18. Some of the hype is that a certain generation grew up with it. In ’97 when the first book came out, my mom brought it home to me and I devoured it. And as soon as the next ones came out I was reading them. The final book came out my first year of college and I felt like my childhood was truly over with it.

    I just started rereading them again this year, I’m on book 3 myself and you are right they are childish, and fast read if you sit down and force them. But they get darker as they get older, and you may not appreciate them as much because, well you are already an adult. Not to say you can’t reach down a get that fuzzy feeling of childhood memories and fun to come back for nostalgic purposes. But for some it just isn’t there…Kinda like Twilight…I will never get the hype for it, I thought it was awful.

    1. I admit, I spent some time in high school obsessed with Twilight. I was obsessed with Twilight through my freshman year of college. While I enjoyed the books at the time, they hold no interest for me any more. I don’t think I could read them again if I tried. I was just a teenager who ate up the idea that obsession was love. Now, I think I’d be rather disgusted with the books.

  19. HP has an advantage in that it’s so incredibly marketable, in all the best ways. Everybody identifies with a house, and each house has colors — there you go. There’s Harry’s glasses and scar — super easy costume. There’s a very detailed world outside of just the protagonist, so you really start to feel like you know what it’s like there and that you could live there quite casually.

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