Harry Potter #1: The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Read: 28 March, 2012

With the exception of one course I took in University, I’ve largely been able to avoid the Harry Potter craze. I hadn’t read the books, nor seen the movies. But I figured that it was about time dip into this extremely popular series.

It was a weird experience to read this book because my culture is so saturated with it that I already felt like I knew the characters and even many of the major plot points. So even though I was experiencing the Harry Potter world first hand for the first time, I still had the odd feeling that I was revisiting it.

I enjoyed the experience much more than I did my reading of The Prisoner of Azkaban a few years ago. I think that this is partially because The Philosopher’s Stone is where Harry&co. are really introduced, whereas in Prisoner, some knowledge is assumed. So my feelings for the characters were nurtured and I could care about what was happening far more. Also, if I’m honest, I’d have to say that part of my dislike of Prisoner was due to the popularity of the series and my own place as a reader at the time. I was an English major. I read fancy books. This was pop trash – it had to be, because look at how popular it is! Must be the modern equivalent of a Penny Dreadful!

I did recognize some of my old complaints, though. While the story is set up as a mystery, it isn’t a very good one. Harry Potter is credited with uncovering clues, but really they just seem to fall into his lap (Hagrid just happened to have clipped from a newspaper and left out for Harry to find exactly the clue he needed? Really?). The way this happens sometimes borders on the ridiculous.

But Rowling’s strength is in writing her characters. There’s someone in Hogwarts for everyone to relate to. I loved the way that the children openly communicate with each other and don’t play the silly secrecy games that characters so often play to artificially increase suspense. This is also a story of friendship, and of working together as a team. In many ways, this is what breaks the Harry Potter series off from the pack of children/YA novels. Harry may be the titular character, but Ron and Hermione are just as central and are given plenty of opportunities for their own contribution and growth.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed The Philosopher’s Stone, despite its flaws. As I was reading, I actually found myself looking forward to being able to share the story with my son in a few years, and that says a lot!

If you’re as late to the party as I’ve been and I’ve somehow convinced you to read the series, you can buy Harry Potter and the Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone from Amazon now!

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