by Zachary Barry
Yes, you read the title correctly, this semester, I decided I would read the first book in the Harry Potter series for the first time. I did, in fact, grow up in the early two thousands when the books and the movies were at the height of their popularity. I just never found myself getting into them. When I was the target age for the series, I preferred the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. That’s not to say that I’ve had no exposure to the Harry Potter series. I recall at least two sleepovers where the first movie was put on and everyone fell asleep before the train left platform 9 ¾. I spent a couple of school computer classes in high school on Pottermore, and somehow, despite my lack of interest in the series, it happened that the series is my girlfriend’s favorite. When we first started dating, she read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so we’d have more to talk about, and four years later I decided to make things even by giving the Harry Potter series a try. As I was reading it, I realized there probably aren’t many people my age who read any of the Harry Potter books for the first time. I figured it would be interesting for those who haven’t read the first book yet, and those who read the first book nearly a decade ago to hear my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As I read further into the book, I found myself getting more invested in the story and its characters. Except for Draco Malfoy, whom in the first book you’re obviously supposed to dislike, I found all the characters to be interesting and relatable in some way. I could relate to Ron’s drive to stand out from the pack and Harry’s struggle to find somewhere he fits in. Even Hermione’s desire to study so intensely to do well at Hogwarts was relatable. No one in my family was an engineer, so sometimes when I hear stories about other students at Mines with parents who were engineers, I feel like I have to work harder just to catch up to them. I found myself liking Neville the most. His transformation from being scared and having no confidence in himself to being able to stand up for himself against both friend and foe were what made me like him so much. One thing that I found interesting was how much time the plot covered without feeling rushed or shallow. Maybe it’s relating to the fact that when your classwork gets really difficult whole months can seemingly disappear, but I felt that the pacing was good at keeping the plot moving while also sprinkling in important events.
I do, however, have a few gripes with the book. First off, the restricted section of the library seemed to be a pretty blatant plot device for the sake of a plot device. As I was reading, I expected it to have more of a payoff relating to who Nicolas Flamel was, but it only survived to get Harry lost, not a particularly hard feat in this book. That combined with the fact that Nicolas Flamel’s identity was revealed to Harry and his friends on the back of a trading card, made the forbidden section of the library with bloody and screaming books (but not the books on dragon rising, which is illegal) seem unnecessary and poorly thought out. (When I shared this opinion with my girlfriend, she insinuated that the forbidden section of the library would prove important eventually. Maybe when I get to that point in the series, I feel differently about it). My other gripe is, admittedly, a personal one. As I said, I have had some exposure to the series before now, which has included several official and unofficial house quizzes. Most of the time, the results of these quizzes are that I am a Hufflepuff through and through, and everyone I know who has read the books agrees that it’s pretty accurate. Even having not read the book, I was aware that house Hufflepuff is the butt of many jokes in the series and the fanbase. I still found it a little bit jarring that in Diagon alley Draco not only insults the house but Harry gets disheartened at the thought of being put in Hufflepuff because of it.
I definitely enjoyed Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, but in a way, it didn’t seem to live up to the hype. It did a good job at making me excited to read the next book in the series, but I don’t feel any particular sense of urgency to do so, given how casually it ended. Maybe that’s all that this first book is supposed to do, but with how passionate the fan base is about the series, I expected it to be more thrilling than it was. If I did miss something in the first book, it might be because I’ve grown up and I had another book series that fulfilled the role that, for many people, the Harry Potter series did.