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My Favorite Harry Potter Book

In honor of Harry's birthday and the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, here's a Potter post. A post is the least I can do. Especially considering that my town had a whole Harry Potter day/event/party that clogged the streets with more costumed people than I thought even lived here. 

It was great to see so many people out enjoying themselves and reveling in their unabashed love for this series -- from little kids with wands to tweens in Hogwarts uniforms to millennials in HP T-shirts to middle-aged dudes dressed as Salazar Slytherin.

It reminded me of my own experience growing up with this series, and why I'll always love Harry Potter. (It also reminded me of that time my friend and I dressed as Draco and Pansy and went to the midnight release of Deathly Hallows, where I accidentally scared small children while losing a costume contest to a girl dressed as Moaning Myrtle. There are some really embarrassing photos out there, thanks to my mom. Luckily she hadn't figured out how to go digital at that point, so my Draco impression complete with Sharpied Dark Mark will -hopefully- never see the light of day.)

Moving on...

Can you guess my favorite Harry Potter book? I mean, you have a one in seven chance considering I haven't read Cursed Child. I've found that my favorite doesn't tend to be a common favorite, and I wonder why. 

It's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 



Why?

I think part of it was after finally reading The Sorcerer's Stone, I was so thrilled to find out there were more books that I would have loved Chamber of Secrets no matter what. By that same token, I disliked Prisoner of Azkaban for years because to me it was the book I had to read while waiting on The Goblet of Fire

Another main reason is Ron. Ron is one of my favorite characters. Hermione was always too much of a perfect goody-two-shoes, and Harry was the idealized chosen one despite his minimal flaws. Neither of them ever seemed like a real person to me -- not the way Ron did. I mean, I liked them, but I related to Ron more because his conflicts and emotions and insecurities made him more believable. Plus, he rescues Harry from the Dursleys. As a kid, I always sort of wished I had a friend like Ron. 


Who *doesn't* want to do this with their best friend?

Plus he was terrified of spiders. I'm terrified of spiders. (Link goes to a post about my pet spider. You have been warned.)

Chamber of Secrets is one of Ron's best books in the series. He's brave, he has a flying car, he shows off some Wizarding lore, he's close to Harry and Hermione, and he even gets to shine when Hermione is Petrified. It's his sister that gets taken. His wand is broken, which results in a lot of the comic relief. 

Of course, Ron's broken wand only highlights what a horrible school Hogwarts is. The kind of school that would allow a child to continue with a dangerous, broken wand because his parents couldn't afford to replace it. The state of financial aid at Hogwarts must be terrible. And don't even get me started on the apparently nonexistent government benefits the Ministry of Magic offers.

Hell, even the reason Ron covets the Elder Wand in the last book can be traced back to Chamber of Secrets. Ron wanted an unbeatable wand that would make up for his broken wand and lack of magical prowess in a world where magical prowess is paramount. 

For the rest of the series, Ron struggles with magic, lagging behind Hermione and even Harry. It's probably due to the year he spent with A BROKEN WAND which ALL of his teachers failed to notice or care about. That setback led to academic failure which led to a self-fulfilling prophecy which led to feelings of insecurity and probably every other problem Ron has over the course of the books. Which in turn led to fans and even the author disliking him. 

Well, screw them. Ron's my favorite. 



What else?

I also like horror. Even as a kid, I had a morbid imagination and took unseemly pleasure in gory, violent tales. For me at least, The Chamber of Secrets is the only Harry Potter book that's actually scary. It has a horror vibe the rest of the books lack. 

Sure, there are scary parts in the other books -- especially in the end of Sorcerer's Stone and The Goblet of Fire -- but the horror flavor didn't define them. Chamber of Secrets has students living in a state of fear, menaced by an unknown threat that hunts the halls searching for its next victim. 

It has that whole "ancient curse" horror trope as well as the "closed door" mystery/horror plot, where you weed out the killer/Heir of Slytherin by a deadly process of elimination. An air of dread hangs over Chamber of Secrets that is absent even from Deathly Hallows, the most high-stakes book in the series. The unknown stalks the halls of Hogwarts, making Chamber of Secrets scarier than books where we know who the villain is from the start. Even Umbridge has nothing on the Heir of Slytherin. 

Also, spiders. 


Googling that image probably gave me nightmares.
As a kid, I didn't know that those were horror tropes or that this plot had classic horror overtones. I just knew that I liked something about it that was different in tone from the rest of the books -- a difference in tone most of my friends disliked, actually. Prisoner of Azkaban was the favored book in my elementary school...and among most people I've talked to since then, come to think of it. But as my reading preferences solidified over time, I came to recognize what I had liked so much about Chamber of Secrets. 

Also, did I mention the spiders? Spiders are scary. 

Also, the cover

For some reason, the bright reds and golds of the original cover really appealed to me. I used to examine the cover art for the HP series over and over, always finding something new and unique in the art that I'd missed before. It's still one of my favorite covers. And since I liked the book inside, I have no problem with judging a book by its cover in this case.

Comments

  1. It doesn't surprise me at all that Chamber of Secrets is your favourite... also I agree with you about Ron being the most interesting character. I find it interesting that CoS falls into the horror tropes, because when I first read it, I read it as very light and didn't take the threat seriously at all - I thought it was going to be like one of those kid mysteries where the scary thing is actually something not that scary. Maybe it was because some of the characters weren't taking it seriously? I don't know. I need to reread this series again...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha. I'm pretty predictable. :) Also, MG horror is the best horror and I love it. On the other hand, someone was just telling me tonight that their kid got really scared towards the ending of this book and refused to let them finish reading it (and now doesn't want anything more to do with Harry Potter). Hopefully when the kid's older it will be less scary...

      It's funny, because I complain here that Hermione is too much of a goody two-shoes but when I was a kid, *I* was that teacher's pet kid. I tried to behave super well and perform to the utmost in school, just like Hermione (though apparently I was a little horror in other ways at home). I'm also a total Slytherin. I behaved well and got good grades because a) it let me get out of a lot of things and b) because I had a competitive nature. But a lot of the things Ron does made me cringe, which is perhaps why I thought he was interesting -- he was really different from my own personality.

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