I’m 26 years old, but until about a week ago, I had never read any Harry Potter. But I did generally know the Harry Potter world, so allow me a brief introduction to how I came into this project.
When the Harry Potter books were first starting to become a real phenomenon, I had no interest. I had always loved reading, but by that point, I was probably in middle school and deemed the idea of what was called a “kids’ book” to be too immature for me. Which, in retrospect, is hilarious, since I’m one of the least mature people I know. But my oldest sister did get into them at some point, and when the first movie came out, she practically dragged me to the theater to see it with her. She was in college and I was in high school by then, but while she was thoroughly freaking out, the first film made little impression on me. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t sweep me away. She tried to get me to read the book, but failed. I didn’t see the second movie in theaters, but I caught a few minutes of it on DVD when my sister was rewatching it; not enough to really give the movie a fair chance, just enough to decide that Dobby was annoying, and that I probably didn’t need to spend any more time on that series.
I didn’t see another Harry Potter movie until the fifth. I don’t remember how I caught part of Order of the Phoenix on TV or DVD, but I did, and was surprised by finding whatever snippet of it to be likable enough. That made just enough impression that, when I was toward the end of college, my girlfriend (now wife) was able to get me to watch one of the many ABC Family marathons of the movies. Then I accompanied her to see the last three films in theaters. I liked the third, fourth, and fifth movies well enough, and pretty thoroughly enjoyed the final three.
That made me a very mild Harry Potter fan, but not much closer to reading the books. I figured reading them for the first time, when well into my 20s, would be setting myself up to dislike them. I had already seen the movies, and while I knew the films had to cut a lot out from the books, I would still at least know the major points before they happened in the books. And although I’d heard J.K. Rowling’s writing steadily matured as the series went on, I’d still have to get through early books that were intended largely for children. I just didn’t think there was much chance I would end up with the same wonderment as people who grew up reading the books as they came out.
Then, I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone last week. And? That first night, I felt like every concern I’d had might end up being justified. I only read the first two chapters before going to bed, and I didn’t like them. I was still determined to keep going on, but early on, I really struggled with one main thing:
I hate the Dursleys.
The first person I said that to told me that I was supposed to hate the Dursleys. But there’s an important distinction worth making. The reader might be supposed to hate the Dursleys on Harry’s behalf, sure. But the reader should not hate reading about the Dursleys. And I did. They’re too exaggerated, too ridiculously awful. I didn’t feel much sympathy for Harry — not because his circumstances wouldn’t evoke sympathy if real, but because they were too annoyingly unreal to allow me to feel a genuine emotion like sympathy.
It was a bad start. Luckily, I kept going, and literally the second the action left the Dursley household, the entire book turned around for me.