Monday, March 26, 2018

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling | I Forgot How Smart Harry Is??

Harry Potter #1
Date Read: Jan 20 to Feb 3, 2018
First Published: 1997
Hardcover & Paperback
Middle Grade, Fantasy
Rating:
Re-Readability:
Harry Potter's life is miserable. His parents are dead and he's stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he's a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry's first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it's his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.
So, obviously, this is not the first time I have read HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE. It's not the second or third or even eighth. I have probably read this specific book in the series over two dozen times. (That being said, I haven't done a full re-read of the series in years. I will try to do so this year because man do I miss it!)

And yet, somehow, I found myself learning new things about this series, and how I view it, with this re-read. That is the greatness of the Harry Potter world. That is part of what makes it so lasting. What makes my young cousin, who is just ten, love these books as much as I have, twenty years after the first came out.

It's literal magic.

I've got to admit that part of my experience with these books will always be intertwined with that of the movies, which is why I remember some things a bit differently than they really were. It's not an entirely bad thing; I love the movies, and I love the actors, and it definitely allows for some elements of the story to feel fresh every single time.

But with this specific re-read, since it really has been a while, or because I read it more slowly as part of the read-along I attempted to join, I noticed this a lot more strongly than I normally do. Like, I honestly forgot that Harry is smart. Yes, he is never going to be book clever like Hermione is (but let's be real, who is?). He's not the brightest wizard of his generation and so forth. But he is smart and clever, and intelligent. He connects the dots, he draws conclusions (and even when he's wrong, his reasoning is so sound you can never fault him because then you would have to fault yourself because you made the same mistake too). He figures most of the crucial parts of the book without needing anyone's help, and when he does need it he is always smart enough to ask for it. That's so admirable!

Aside from being one smart cookie, Harry is also sassy and funny, which is one thing that the movies kind of missed on a general basis. Sassy Harry memes are some of my absolute favorites (although, Movie Harry's sass is also a lot of fun when it shines through).

And although he is brave and funny, and smart... He does get scared, he does feel shame and embarrassment, and he does have regrets... a lot of them. Harry Potter is not perfect--which, in turn, makes him an absolutely perfect protagonist. Because he chooses to be brave in the face of hardship. He chooses to do the right thing. He is only eleven years old, and already he is actively choosing to stand his grounds and fight. Not just for himself. Actually, very rarely for himself.

Harry Potter is an avenger, and a protector, and an incredibly loyal friend. All from the age of eleven, when he has all the reasons in the world not to be on account of his shitty childhood. Why do I see so many people dissing him so often on the internet? Why?? STOP IT.

So, yeah. Rowling does an amazing job setting up the character of Harry. Which, despite growing and evolving in the following books, keeps true to all his roots and the best things about him which are introduced here.

She does the same with Ron - funny, loyal, easily excited Ron, who has an inferiority complex but for the most part constantly rises above it to be a good friend, a helping hand and the person whom without Harry would probably not have survived emotionally throughout his school year. He's kind of the heart of the group because he's mostly emotion, and I love him.

Then we have Hermione, easily my favorite of the main trio. She's a strong, independent young girl who is viciously smart and clever, talented beyond belief, but also kind of lonely as she comes across as somewhat of a know-it-all (mostly because she often does know it all). She's mostly brain and logic, which is why she serves to center the other characters when they would turn to their base emotions. That doesn't mean she is not heartfelt and loyal and an amazing friend, just that she would first weigh her feelings against what she knows, and when this two coincide she will go all out to protect and follow what she believes.

And, fyi, I have shipped Ron and Hermione since I was seven and read this book for the first time. Brains and Heart ships are some of my favorites, and I was certain these two would one day marry and have children who are viciously smart but also incredibly emotional since Ron made Hermione cry that first time. #myfirstship

Anyway, these three friends create an incredible balance between them that is extremely hard to write and execute, never mind that Rowling makes it looks as easy and effortless as turning on the light. All three have a role to fill and things only they can bring to the story as well as each other's development throughout this book and the series as a whole. You don't get to see these as much in the movies, since Harry is put as the single "hero" of that narrative, in a way that he isn't really in the books.

As much as this is Harry Potter's story, it still has three heroes. Not a main character and two main side characters, but three main characters, whom without the story and world would not be able to exist.

And what a story that is... PHILOSOPHER'S STONE builds up an incredible, magical, enchanting and captivating world, made all the more amazing by the complexity of the characters and the meticulous planning showcased by Rowling. So many things that would pay up in future books, and yet not once do you feel like you are being set up for a sequel because that's not why they are there.

Honestly, my love for HP is as strong today as it was on the first read.

That being said, this is the first time I've noticed some questions and possible plot holes in this first book. I'll be the first one to defend anything I think is not fairly a plothole ((I mean, I do have an entire post dedicated to how time turners is not a real plothole (if you take out Cursed Child out of the canon because that thing threw everything Rowling established in the book series out the window) But I digress)), but there are legitimate questions.

I'll be putting all those in spoiler tags on the off chance someone who hasn't read the books is reading this review, even though I find it hard to believe. But please, please, if you love these books as much as I do come debate with me on whether my concerns are legitimate or could be explained!!

*Mark with the mouse to see the spoilers!*

SPOILER

So, first thing's first... HOW DID THE DURSLEYS GET OFF THAT ISLAND??? In case you missed it, for all intents and porpuses, Hagrid has just stolen their only means of transportation. We see no indication that he has somehow returned their boat or told anyone they may need help. And yet, the next time we see the Dursleys they: a. don't say anything about that or appear upset and b. are safe and whole in their nasty abode.

Admittedly, it's a silly thing to wonder about, but it's out of characters for the Dursleys not to care and for Rowling not to address it lol

Second, HARRY'S SCAR DOESN'T REALLY MAKE SENSE? We have been taught, in this book and yes, the sequels, that Harry's scar reacts to Voldemort's presence. That's why it occasionally hurts, most noticeably when he looks at Snape and Quirrell talking. But why doesn't it hurt more, or more consistently? How come Harry's scar isn't shooting pains in his forehead every Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, thus allowing him to ascertain Quirrell's guilt long before the finale? We are told Voldy has been stuck on his nape since they met in Diagonally!

Another nagging wonder of mine is WHY DID SNAPE SUSPECT QUIRRELL IN THE FIRST PLACE? Aside from the fact it makes for one hell of a red-herring and an incredible twist, it makes little sense. What would make Snape suspect poor, stuttering little Quirrell? Is there a bad guy sign that Snape can read? And once Snape does suspect him, why doesn't Voldy reveal himself to Snape? As far as he knows, Snape is his loyal servant. Yet, he allows Snape to threaten Quirrell repeatedly uncontested, and that eventually leads to the downfall of his plan.

I would love to know more about the Snape and Quirrell's dynamics in this book!

END SPOILER

Lots of interesting questions on this read, few answers to be found.

However, for every detail that didn't work to complete perfection, there are seven that do. Little sentences and moments that wow me again and again and again. Forget the fact I almost know this story by heart at this point. I am still awed and amazed by references that wouldn't connect for another few books, allusions to things that would be relevant 5000 pages later, details that seem irrelevant but aren't.

It makes the entire book and series so beautifully crafted and expertly planned. It feels like Rowling knew exactly where each character was headed before she even wrote the first word and THAT is what makes it such an alleviated reading experience for me, time and time again. 
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