Hi, I’m Lindsay Eckert–a writer around these parts.Nice to meet you; however, you may or may not like me after reading this. And that’s ok. You still seem like a decent sort. Note from R.B. Topping: Whether you like her opinion here or not, I vouch for the awesome-ness of Lindsay. She’s got a degree in writing, a completed novel under her belt, and a certificate of true nerd-dom (if there were such things issued, I guarantee she’d have one. She can outclass any gatekeeper on ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ lore with her hands tied behind her back–or cut off in a lightsaber battle). She’s got a blog and a twitter account if you’d like to follow. And trust me, you do!
I finished my very first read through of the Harry Potter series this year at the age of 26. Yes, you read that right. I had never before read any of the famous novels. Why, you ask? It’s complicated. Why didn’t you like it, you yell blindly at me, the stranger on the other side of the screen?
Harry Potter was a cultural phenomenon when I was growing up. Nearly all my school friends were reading them, debating which house they belonged to, I was inundated with Potter references as it exploded into popularity then seeped into everyday culture. And yet I never picked up a book.
There are two major reasons for this.
One: I grew up in a Christian household. That doesn’t mean I, or my parents, believed Harry Potter was born of hellfire and trained children to be witches. I read voraciously already so the books weren’t my breakthrough to start reading as I’ve heard it was for other kids, therefore my parents weren’t rushing out to buy it and…
Two: I just wasn’t interested. Not to sound egotistical, but when the first book came out, the reading level wasn’t challenging enough and lacked the robust writing I was looking for. I had absolutely no desire to pick it up.
After enduring a decade of being asked my opinion about Harry Potter, getting horrified and scandalized looks when I admitted I’d never read them, and having no opinion based on my experience to offer, I finally decided to get an informed opinion earlier this year. I was curious. Many cautioned me to read them simply as kid books, that the books would ‘grow up’ as the series went on, making sure they set my expectations right. Some were excited for the journey I was about to undergo, their eyes sparkling with nostalgic remembrance. Some were afraid that my book snobbishness (deemed so because I love reading books that challenge me rather than reading fluffy stuff) would impede my ability to see them for what they were—fun jaunts through a mystical world.
Before I enter into it, I don’t want to disregard anyone’s thoughts on the series, where my analysis mixes with anyone’s nostalgic love fervour. They were decent books. I do think though, just like certain videogames from my childhood I hang on to, our nostalgic experience affects how we feel about and remember them, which—if we don’t return to them in later years—tints the reality inherent in a closer examination.
I hated the kids. Harry, Hermione, Ron…I have squinty face just thinking about them. Harry was the root of it all, Hermione usually less so, but the children whined and bumbled their way through the machinations of adults—the plot that I truly cared about. I could not have cared less about what happened to our protagonists, but MAN was I invested in Snape, Dumbledore, and Voldemort’s tangled history. My sneaking interest in the adults’ storylines is what kept me reading.
Harry and his father bothered me the most. Harry is arrogant, selfish, spurns authority (especially good authorities like Dumbledore) in every book, explodes into tantrums at a whim (remember when he threw an object at Ron’s head, with intent to injure—that was messed up), and used Hermione to do most of his schoolwork. Charming lad. And James was worse! What a straight-up, no excuses bully. I never understood why Lilly flitted over to James in a love bubble.
And then Snape obsessively pined after Lilly the rest of his life to the point he made a deal to protect Harry because he’s Lilly’s son?! Really? Reeeaaallly? The line, “Always,” honestly just made me pity-sad for him.
I have to be real honest here: I’m having a hard time picking specifics out of my head about all the little sentences and behaviours that made me cringe. But I remember the whining. I remember thinking, why doesn’t Harry get over himself and just do something useful? Why is he yelling at Hermione and Ron AGAIN? You’re supposed to be friends with these people, Harry! That was our protagonist for seven books. And I remember savouring all the moment when we as readers got to learn a little more about the adults skulking around in the background who, truly, the books were about.
Dumbledore crafted everyone’s actions from day one to suit what he needed out of each person. Voldemort was truly creepy, although ‘evil to the point of being un-relatable evil’ isn’t terribly interesting. Snape was a bad guy until we learned more about his past, at which point I felt badly for him, but it didn’t excuse how he behaved in the present. I was waiting for the grand twist to drop where there was a reason why he acted like a bully to nearly everyone in his care. He protected Harry only because he was Lilly’s son, but treated him like a puppy that needed beating. Why bother protecting the kid then?
The plot kept the pages turning, the background of this world kept me going to the next book, but to be honest with you, at the end of it all I was frustrated, shrugged, then returned the books to their rightful owners and was happy to never look at them again.
This isn’t to say your opinions are invalid. This is my own rant on what I experienced.
And I’ll share a secret about me with you: I relish being contrary to popular opinion. If you want to read more of my contrary opinions, pop over to A Penchant for Words.