Following on from last week’s post by Leo Cristea, we now have his brother – Alek, who’s kindly agreed to stop by and share his thoughts on his favourite series – Harry Potter, written by JK Rowling and one of the most famous YA novel series ever written, and arguably – the most famous. So without further ado, go read Alek’s fantastic post.
I can’t say that until recently I had ever read much YA. There was just something about most of the back-of book-blurbs that just didn’t draw me in. Not only did it feel like I had to navigate through an army of almost clone-like female main characters (which is, luckily, no longer the case these days), the plots often seemed a little lacklustre compared to what the more ‘grown-up’ (and I use the term loosely) fantasy had to offer. Whether that was simply teenage snobbery or the fact that the YA SFF market has changed drastically over the years, I’m not sure. But through all that, there was one series of books that stood out, and stands out still to this date.
I can’t precisely remember how old I was when I dived into the Harry Potter series but it had round about everything I could have wanted a book to have at that point: a male main with an awesome pair of supporting characters, magic, a magic school and enough adventures to keep readers going. Granted, Harry and his friends were a lot younger than I was but Rowling wrote them in such a way that it never seemed to really matter. And obviously, as they grow up, my affinity with the cast grew too.
There is something about the idea of a magic school that is just brilliant. I think most children at one point or another have dreamt of going to one, to feel special and different in all the right ways. The fact that they don’t exist (or if they do, I clearly didn’t have the potential!) doesn’t stop us dreaming, even once we’re all grown up. The Harry Potter series allows for such constant dreaming, constant immersion into a world that could very well be real, hidden so close to ours. I grew up with those books, with Harry and his friends, and they filled me with all sorts of emotions and the knowledge that, as long as you put your mind to something, you can achieve great things.
Picking a favourite book out of the series would be difficult, as they’re all brilliant in their own way and all have something that the others don’t. The Philosopher’s Stone is the beginning, it is where the magic starts, when Hogwarts first came to life and for that, and that alone, it deserves a mention. Without the first book, the series could not have been; the magic would never have sparked and turned into what it became. As such, it holds a special place in my heart: it is, after all, the book that introduced me to the series.
The Chamber of Secrets was special because it is where the story starts to ‘grow-up’. Harry, only a year older, has to face more dangerous things than ever before. Not only that, but the cast starts to grow: Ron’s sister is now at Hogwarts and we get a glimpse of the parents that will start to play a role in the rest of the books (Lucius Malfoy and the Weasley parents). The magical world grows too, becoming more alive than ever and it is what gives the second book in the series its charm.
The Prisoner of Azkaban, third book in the series, battles others to remain my favourite. I simply loved it when I first read it. The reason behind this, however, might not be what everyone expects, however. It’s not that I outright disliked Sirius Black, more that I never warmed to him. There was just something about him, about how he had been and what he had done that meant I never fully grew to like him. Sirius was Sirius and I never attached to him as most people did. Instead, it was Professor Remus Lupin who made this book and remains, to this date, one of my favourite characters in the series. Sod the rest of book three, Professor Lupin is the best part of it!
The Goblet of Fire is both a book I love, and want to avoid at the same time. Starting with the Quidditch World Cup which gives us a far more encompassing view of the wizarding world than any book before, this book is a full pelt adventure ride. It just never stops and Harry seems to have more on his plate than any sane person could deal with. But he is Harry, and with the help of his trustworthy friend he manages. Much like Professor Lupin in book three, it is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who makes the book that little bit more awesome: Professor Moody might not exactly be ~himself~ (no spoilers here!) but he has to act the part and he is a fantastic character. The reason I want to avoid this book? The ending. Cedric’s death still hits me hard every time I read it even though I know it’s coming. It’s so sudden and meaningless and comes as such a shock in a series where so far, no one we had gotten acquainted with had died: deaths belonged in the past. From now on, death is an ever present threat.
The Order of Phoenix might well be my least favourite of the books: Dolores Umbridge makes for a very good, very unlikable villain, and Harry, being constantly told he is a liar when he speaks of Voldemort’s return quickly grows tiresome. Too much happens in this book that drives me absolutely mad: the ministry’s cowardice, the return of Rita Skeeter (who I already wanted to hex into tomorrow in the previous book), Umbridge’s behaviour and everything surrounding her being appointed headmistress. But book five in the series also has one of my favourite bits of the series: the DA. The group Harry’s friends get him to lead to learn how to protect themselves is fantastic. It just made the book worth it, worth putting up with all the annoying parts.
The Half-Blood Prince is another for the top favourite fight. I have read so many negative reviews of this book complaining about the romance and the amounts of flashback but you know what? I loved all those bits! Getting to know more of the past, by not simply being told it, but having it shown through people’s memories was just brilliant. Learning more about Voldemort and where he came from and what happened to him was one of the highlights of the book. As for the romance? Well, we’d all seen Ron and Hermione coming since The Goblet of Fire and their relationship through this book was expertly done. Rowling just knows how to write teens that age and it’s just so awesome to read! However, the end of Half Blood Prince still leaves me feeling numb and shocked every time I read it, and that’s not always good!
Finally, there is The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series and the only one not primarily set at Hogwarts. This is probably the thing I like about this book the least: I couldn’t help but miss the school and its setting. But there is so much good in this book: the change in Kreacher, what happens with the Malfoys, all the bits of the past that fall into place. But for as awesome as those bits of the book are, the mounting death toll took some of the awesomeness from it. There are a handful of deaths in the series that I just didn’t see the point of but The Deathly Hallows sort of takes the biscuit and I just can’t forgive Rowling for some of the casualties in this one, which is perhaps the only thing stopping it from being one of my favourites.
All in all, it’s sort of obvious why I can’t pick a true favourite in the series. All the books have awesome parts to them, and parts that aren’t so great too. But the series as a whole was wonderful to grow up with, and even now, every time I read them, the same magic washes over me all over again. I don’t think these books will ever get old, and I don’t think I will ever get sick of them: not with characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione, like Snape, Lupin, and Dumbledore, not with the Weasleys always waiting to welcome me back home, and most certainly not with Hogwarts waiting, with its doors ever open for me to walk down its corridors.
You Can Find Alek’s Bio Below:
Alek has been an avid reader of fantasy since he was told to give The Lord of the Rings a go. Already a geek through his tastes in RPG/JRPG games, his fate was sealed. Since then, although he has attempted to stray from the genre, fantasy has been where his heart belongs. Somewhere along the line, he decided that it would be cool to one day write his own fantasy novel and he has several—although a little scattered—plot ideas that are waiting for him to put pen to paper. Or is it fingers to keys these days? His progress in the writing world was halted for a few years when he toiled full time as a customer assistant in an electronics shop, spending his days surrounded by computers. As such, he can add to his geek résumé that he can change RAM in a computer! At the moment, Alek is a Psychology student and when he’s not studying, or reading, he’s working on his own work in progress. A true Slytherin, Alek likes to pretend he’s a Hogwarts alumni and he’s even got a Ravenclaw brother to back him up. With a hoard of five cats, Alek definitely feels that sometimes his house is not his own. (But he wouldn’t change that for the world.)