With my birthday this past Friday, the first book of year twenty is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I may be a bit late, but I’ve finally finished the Harry Potter series. I’m so glad I did. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they are only for children or teenagers. Don’t listen to the fans who grew up and took a couple college courses on Shakespeare and now constantly belittle Rowling’s literary achievements. It’s a great series. End of story.
When I was in second grade I picked up the Sorceror’s Stone and flipped through the pages halfheartedly, perhaps making it as far as the second chapter. Where was the romance? Why was Harry so annoying? Why was the book so long?
I wish I could have been a part of the magic and excitement and experience of eagerly awaiting the next book, not knowing what might happen or who might die. But I am determined that the experience won’t end with my generation. These are books I will insist that my coworkers read. These are books I will read to my own wide-eyed children late at night, in between Jane Eyre and The Night Circus.
What makes them so great? How can they be relatable to a twenty-year-old who had long ago given up any dreams of a Hogwarts acceptance letter being delivered by a gorgeous snowy owl?
The characters may be young, but they face big problems. Maybe even more importantly, they have big hearts. This last book in the series is by far the most poetic, the most graceful and breathtaking in its language. That’s out of necessity, because young readers need to see that while there are things bigger than death, beautiful things come out of the fact that life is not permanent. They need to hear that love will triumph. They need to see that hubris is as real in Ron not asking Hermione to the ball as it is in Voldemort chasing after the elusive elder wand. These are characters who are challenged and thereby changed – they make mistakes, they learn from them, they find who they are supposed to be, and then they grow into those incredible people.
And that’s not even taking into account Rowling’s entire genius, the quiet feminism of its strong female characters, the careful avoidance of romantic cliches, the growing complexity of the plot, the increasingly more sophisticated language, the metaphors, allusions, anaphora, free indirect discourse, and many many more syntactical and stylistic devices that are at once so impressive but also so genuine. It reads like a bedtime story, an adventure romance, a fairytale; it reads like real life. If you had never planned to read the series, or if it was once a huge part of your long-forgotten childhood, do yourself a favor and find copies – all your favorite people probably own at least one book. Forget that you are a Muggle and remember that you are alive. It’s like Rowling writes in the final book:
Why had he never before appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart?
Appreciate. Start here.