Friday, November 15, 2013

Harry Potter From The Perspective of a Squib

      There are three types of people in this world:
  • Potterheads:  Those who loved the Harry Potter series.
  • Squibs: Those who did not love the Harry Potter series.
  • Muggles: Those who never read the Harry Potter series.

As an Avid Reader, you would probably assume that I have read all of the Harry Potter books, and you would not be alone. Until last week, you'd be wrong. I was a Muggle.  Why? The answer was simple.  I don't like children's fantasy. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy period, but when it's written for kids, you can count me out.
Now I can hear all you Potterheads chattering:
"But it’s so much more than fantasy."
"They are modern day classics."
"Trust me, just read them. You will love them."
"It’s not just for kids."
"But...but...but...what is wrong with you?"
I have heard it all before. In fact, after the third or fourth book came out, a friend of mine swore up and down if I read the first half of the first book, I would be hooked.  So I did.  And after the first half, I gave the book back.  I was not hooked.
Life went on and I was harassed by more and more Potterheads. Telling people you don't like Harry Potter feels like saying you want to drown puppies. Plus, most Potterheads tend to be obsessed. They relate everything to the books and talk about them non-stop. Harry Potter became an annoyance to me. I couldn't stand the name. I knew the second it was mentioned, everyone would get all giddy and it would dominate all conversations for hours. And once they smell the blood of a Muggle, they will relentlessly try to convince you to cave. No matter the argument, I refused to read them.

Then, one day, all that changed.

Once I started my job where I could listen to books on tape, I discovered something miraculous. Jim Dale. I realize some of you may not recognize the name.  Remember the Disney movie Pete's Dragon with the villain named Doc Terminus who can't pronounce the town's name correctly? 

That, ladies and gentleman, is Mr. Jim Dale. Since his days as a traveling swindler, he has gone on to become an audiobook reader. But he's not any ordinary audiobook reader.  Jim Dale is legendary.  His voice is so versatile, it transforms the words into a real story.  He breathes life into each and every character and takes you away. I have heard the man read books I did not like, but kept listening because I didn't want to miss a word he said.  As my dad once said, "If Jim Dale read the phone book, I would listen".

Jim Dale is the audiobook reader for the Harry Potter series. Jim Dale made me cave in on the fight of 15 years.  I was finally going to read Harry Potter.

Now that I finally sat down and decided to try Harry again, I was able to get into the story. Most of you know the story, so I won't bother rehashing everything.  But here is my opinion of the book series:

1. J.K. Rowling did a great job of aging her books with her readers.

The Harry Potter series starts with Harry at age 11. Each book covers one year of his life (or really that school year). As each book goes along, the plot and characters get more complex and intricate as if Rowling is moving up the reading level as she ages her characters.  That takes an incredible amount of talent.

2. The character development is fantastic. 

Each of the main characters, as well and a good portion of the secondary characters, have deep back story and personalities. For instance, Draco Malfoy is Harry's arch nemesis at school. But as the books go on, he becomes so much more.  Draco is the kid who was raised one way and then begins to question it.  This causes a lot of anger and confusion for the young kid, visibly struggling with his actions. The deep character development made the tale far more engaging and the characters real.

3. Teenagers are annoying. 

From book three onward, it becomes clear that teenagers are far more annoying than I remember.  Every single book revolves around two of the three main characters barely speaking through the school year for silly reasons.  Book four is when we see Harry's arrogance start to come out and cause problems along the way. I realized that this is "true to life" and teenagers are just like this, but reading about it through book after book made me less sympathetic to Harry, no matter what was going on.

4.  James Potter is unlikeable. 

We learn in the first book that Harry's mother's love is what saved him. She is spoken of often by many with great admiration and respect.  Everyone seemed to love her and with good reason.  James seemed to be a different story. 

While most of the stories of James come through Snape who openly hated James, there are a few stories through Sirius and Lupin as well.  In each story, James comes off like a pompous, arrogant jerk.  Basically, he sounds like Draco and Lucius through most of the recollections. While I understand that he "changed" after Harry, this is never actually represented in the books and therefore, I never ever liked him.

5. Sirius Black is a clear favorite for Potterheads, not squibs.

Every Harry Potter fan I ever talk to praises Sirius like he is the best character ever.  The reason for their admiration isn’t hard to understand. By the end of book three, Potterheads are emotionally connected to Harry Potter. Sirius is the first person they have met who is like a real parent. He has a historical connection to Harry and his parents, he has always loved Harry (although unable to express it), and now his entire life revolves around keeping Harry safe. Potterheads feel the same emotional connection to him that Harry does.

I expected to fall for him the second I learned of his wrongful conviction.  But the reality is, I never really liked him. He was careless and arrogant. His anger towards Snape was reckless and made his end goal of keeping Harry safe difficult. His willingness to bound around in the open as a dog was dangerous and unnecessary. His hatred for Kreacher, while understandable, was careless considering he knew Kreacher would do all he could to destroy him. These are the main reasons he ended up dying. Don’t get me wrong, Sirius is a very funny character, but it’s hard to feel like canonizing the guy when every move he makes frustrates you.

6. The suspense is lost due to the vast majority of Potterheads. 

In all my tactics to avoid Harry Potter at all costs, the fandom loves to spout off facts of the series. Long before getting into the books, I knew these crucial facts:

  • Lupin is a werewolf
  • Tom Riddle is Voldemort
  • Sirius is actually a good guy
  • Cedric dies at the end of the Tri-Wizard tournament
  • Sirius dies
  • Snape kills Dumbledore
  • Snape is the half-blood prince
  • Snape is actually good (and killed Dumbledore as instructed by Dumbledore)
  • Snape was in love with Lily
  • Ron and Hermione get together
  • Harry and Ginny get together
  • Neville kills Nagini
  • Harry’s scar is a horcrux
  • Harry defeats Voldemort

That is nearly every single twist and turn in the series, and this is coming from someone AVOIDING the series like the plague. Reading a series knowing the secrets is kinda boring.

7. A lot of trouble and deaths could be avoided if Harry had talked to Dumbledore or McGonagall more often (and actually listened). 

How many of the books would have been a lot shorter if Harry had simply talked to a teacher he trusted and actually listened to the response? But then we wouldn't have the series, would we?

8. Fred Weasley's death is the saddest. 

There are several deaths throughout the series, most in the final book. Now, I am a rather heartless reader and tend not to get too emotional when characters die. In fact, if Harry Potter had died in the last book, I would have been okay with it.  But it was not okay to kill off Fred Weasley, especially leaving George behind.  Come on Rowling, have a heart! 

Fred and George Weasley were adorable, funny, and loveable. They provided fantastic comic relief.  But aside from that, they had heart.  They stood for what the believed in, no matter who disagreed with them and they supported each other along the way. Fred's death, to this squib, was devastating. 

9. Its still a kid's story.

After reading all seven books and not hating them, I still view them as kids books (as intended by the writer).  I will never reread the series and will only let Jim Dale read them to my children if they are interested. They are terrific kid's books and I am glad they got so many people, young and old, into reading. But for me, it wasn't much different then reading the books I read in middle school.  They were great for me then, but I have a hard time going backward.

10.  The movie adaptations aren't worth it after #3.

After reading to books, I, of course, watched the movies. After the third one, the movies began to stray too far from the books, and well, weren't very good. I guess it's too hard to fit 800 pages into 2.5 hours of movie!

Now, don’t misunderstand my criticism of this series as hatred. The series was well written, enjoyable, and entertaining. I completely understand why Potterheads are so obsessed with the series. I encourage Muggles to take the time to read them at some point in their lives. But, at the end of the day, I simply cannot deny, I am a Squib.


  1. I guess I would fit in as a Potterhead because I liked the books, but I am definitely not obsessed. I listened to the books upon the recommendation that Jim Dale is a fantastic narrator. It was a re-reading of the books for me, but he really was great! And I had no idea he was Doc Terminus! Thanks for sharing your squib perspective on the books. :)

    1. I live in a family of Potterheads who are not crazy obsessed as well, so have a fondness for them. :) When I first found out that Jim Dale was Doc Terminus, I HAD to go back and watch Pete's Dragon again. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. One of my Facebook friends posted a picture that had James, Sirius, and Lupin inviting Fred to come be the fourth member in their club (since they needed someone to replace Wormtail). Made me cry!

    1. I found out Fred died just before I read The Deathly Hallows and I called Kelli to have her tell me I was wrong, because I REALLY didn't want Fred to die.