Every month, members of teamTEENauthor write a blog post for teens on a specific topic. September’s topic is Harry Potter. For links to more posts on this topic, scroll to the bottom.
I came to the Harry Potter books pretty late, a little before the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, was published. I had heard of the series, but it wasn’t until the recommendations from friends came in force that I decided to give them a try. I was so confident I would love them that I ordered the first three books from the Science Fiction Book Club, and started reading The Sorceror’s Stone while I was trapped in an airport overnight. It was the best book I could have had with me, because I was immediately hooked, and once I’d caught up, I was looking forward to the next one along with the rest of the world.
For some reason I’ve only ever re-read the first three books though, maybe because the later ones are so much longer and I barely have time to read new books, let alone visit favorites. Or maybe it’s because I always hit my favorite, Prisoner of Azkaban, and then don’t feel the need to read more. I consider the third book to be Harry Potter at its best: It had just begun to deal with some darker themes, it was delving into Harry’s past, and yet it still had a sense of innocence about it that diminished with later books.
Or it could be that I have father issues, like many seem to given the number of stories about young boys or men dealing with their missing/lost/kidnapped/dead/deadbeat dads.
I didn’t think I really had that problem, but it definitely seems to be a theme in the stories I enjoy. (For instance, my favorite of the His Dark Materials trilogy is the middle book, The Subtle Knife, and I rarely make it past that one in my re-reads.) I went most of my childhood without a father. He was abusive to my mother and irresponsible in every way imaginable, and she did what all women in that situation should do: She kicked him out, divorced him, and raised me and my older sister alone. It’s not for nothing that Fair Coin is dedicated to my mom; she is the strongest woman I know, a major influence–if not the biggest influence–on the person I am.
But this post is about Harry. And one of the things I loved best about Azkaban is that Harry begins to get to know his father through his best friends, and he learns how much of James Potter is in him. As he and we later realize, Harry’s pop was not always the best person, but he was a kid, and kids make mistakes, and we have to accept our parents and ourselves for the flawed humans we are and try to do better.
The book also gives us two of the characters I love most in the series: Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. They both serve as substitute fathers for Harry, two sides of the same coin (and I think it’s significant that they ultimately share their best friend’s fate). As Harry’s godfather, Sirius gives Harry a crucial, personal link to the magical side of the family he never knew, and Lupin takes him under his
wing paw and shows him how to defend himself by summoning a Patronus, a word related to the Latin root pater for “father”. Harry’s patronus just happens to take the shape of his father’s animal form, a stag. Let’s not forget Harry also inherited his father’s invisibility cloak, and there’s also a moment when Harry sees his future self across a lake (thanks to Hermione’s Time Turner) and mistakes him for James.
That wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey element also endears the book to me; time travel stories are among my favorites in science fiction and fantasy, which is why I was thrilled to do my own take on it in Quantum Coin.
As much as I loved Alfonso Cuarón’s dark, gritty, realistic take on the Azkaban film, which directly influenced the later films, it’s a generally poor adaptation. It covers the basic plot but it doesn’t satisfy me as much as the book does, simply because he stripped some of the meaning from the story. Lupin’s role and his relationship with Harry was severely cut to some classroom scenes and a short discussion on a bridge, and my favorite moment is lost entirely: When Harry realizes that his father and his friends were the creators of the Marauder’s Map. That said, the film did make one improvement; I think the time travel aspect is handled much better than it is in the book, and it really works well visually with characters crossing over their own timelines a la Back to the Future II.
I could go on and on about this book and the series and the Great Purpose of It All, but it’s your turn: Which is your favorite Harry Potter book and why?
Read more about Harry Potter from these teamTEENauthor participants: