If you asked me what my comfort book was, I would say, without a doubt, Harry Potter. Or, rather, to be technically correct, my comfort series. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think the Potter books are the best in the world. In fact, I can think of many books that are better: Great Expectations, The Book Thief, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to name a few, are prime examples of books that have better themes and content wrought in their pages than all the Potter books combined. It’s simply that the books were irrevocably such a large part of my childhood that it’s hard to think of an instance in my life that these books weren’t a part of, from the age of seven onwards. I read the books. I watched the movies. I wrote Albus Dumbledore quotes on my erasers. I was sorted into Ravenclaw at Pottermore. Long after I finished the series, I would sit and reread them, and reread them again. In fact, in fifth grade, one of my teachers gifted me a book, because I would read nothing but Harry Potter.
Well, as you can tell, I have long since moved on from reading just Ms. Rowling’s books. I sincerely do enjoy them, yes, and from time to time, whenever I am stressed, I flip through them, and reread even just one page. Even holding them is comforting to me. Even after I started reading other books, I’d do a yearly re-read of the series up until seventh grade.
These books are now far, far below my high school reading level. I cannot remember not being above grade reading level, and for the longest time, these books were holding me back. Yet they were such, such, such an important part of my childhood. Hogwarts–more than Camp Half-blood, more than 221b Baker Street, more than the TARDIS–is my home. It’s a place where help will always be given to those who need it.
As school ramps up, and we approach our hardest units yet, I am drawn more than usual to the books that made up (quite literally) all of my elementary school years. Re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this weekend, I remembered why I loved the content contained in these pages oh-so-very-much.
+ Universal Themes of Love. Love being the greatest magic of them all is a message that has always stuck with me. When I think of the Potter books, to this day, I remember… love. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers (spoilers are the one thing you should always, always avoid with Harry Potter), but I really loved the message, and the books really drove it home.
+ Strong Female Characters. Yes, yes, I’ve heard about the arguments saying that Rowling has underrepresented female characters in her books, especially strong female characters, but I disagree. Hermione Granger (whose name I still, to this day, spell wrong) is a prime example. People often overlook her, but Professor McGonagall is a woman I shall always look up to. And Mrs. Weasley, well… I think we can all agree on her.
+ Our Lives Are So Well Reflected In These Books. The stress, the homework, the sibling rivalries *coughWeasleyfamilycough*… for all the world, we could have been them, struggling through our astrology essays, hating potions, stressing over our O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.
+ The Character Growth Is Just Beautiful. Harry, Ron, and Hermione change so much over the course of these books. In Book Five, Harry is definitely not the same person he was in Book One. Ron changes from unconfident-youngest-brother-in-a-family-of-nine to being a hero in his own right. Hermione changes from adamant-rule-follower to rule-breaker-for-the-greater-good. And what makes them especially wonderful is… they’re all so flawed, and they seem so real. Nobody will be perfect, and nobody will be terrible. We all make stupid mistakes or bad decisions (like that haircut you got yesterday… don’t worry, it looks fabulous!), and the characters in this book are not without flaws. I just love how Rowling was able to accurately represent them as both strengths and weaknesses at different times.
That’s not to say that the books are without flaws entirely. I mean, there are some major, gaping plot holes that I smooth over for the sake of the story, which is a good one (couldn’t we have just one family with a normal amount of children?). But the magic of it just enthralls you so completely you find yourself swallowed, happy. And it’s especially powerful for those, like me, who have grown up on these books.
Of course, not everybody has. I am constantly shocked seeing that some people have not read them, or do not like them, before remembering that not everybody is me, and that Potter is not everybody’s type of book.
But I loved Harry Potter. I loved Hogwarts. I loved Quidditch, and flying on a broomstick. I shivered when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named made an entrance on the page. I loved Harry Potter, and I think I will for the rest of my life. Even when the writing seems soppy or bad, and I cannot stand reading the words on the page, the Potter books on my shelf will always be a comfort to me. They were a part of my childhood, and always will be.
“After all this time?”