While I won't be standing in line tonight at midnight to buy the last Volume of the Harry Potter series, but I will be watching my mailbox eagerly tomorrow morning waiting for the UPS truck to bring the copy I pre-ordered back in February. When it arrives I will probably start a marathon reading session, because I don't want to hear how the story ends from someone else. Fortunately, since I am a fast reader, it will probably take me only 8-10 hours. I must say that I regret that all the hype will preclude a slower reading.
I am planning to do a Books and Ideas Podcast after I finish, but I wanted to get this post up, because I wanted to get my personal predictions on record before the release (yes I know there are spoilers out on the internet, but I assume if you read this blog regularly you know I have avoided these).
The big debate seems to be over who is going to die in Book 7. I am not going to hazard a guess, but I don't think it will be Harry. First of all this would violate the basic principle of telling an heroic tale. I am comfortable that JK Rowling has good enough instincts as a storyteller not to kill off her main character. Thus, it is not even necessary to offer the more comercial reason that killing off Harry would also kill off future sales because it won't take long for the word to get out.
Another debate seems to center on what really happened to Dumbledore. Most readers agree that his appearance in the portrait in the headmaster's office at the end of book 6 removes any doubt that he is actually dead. However, I predict he will still be an important character in Book 7. I think he knew that he was likely to die (which is why he froze Harry to keep him from sacrificing himself), and that he has left something behind for Harry to help him. Plus, we don't really know much about what the characters in the portraits are really able to do.
I am just listening to the end of Book 6 and I was surprised how sad I feel about Dumbledore's death-two years later! I think when I read the book the first time I saw it coming and I did not have a full emotional reaction.
Reflections on Harry Potter: the first six books
I am proud to say that I have been a Harry Potter fan since before the media frenzy hit, which I think was around the release of Book 4 in July of 2000. I started reading in 1998, when book 2 was still in hardback. At the time I was following the Publishers' Weekly Best Seller list fairly closely and I noticed that books 1 and 2 were topping the adult best seller list. I bought book one because I was curious about how a children's book had become an adult best seller. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is still a magical book that I recommend to everyone.
After that I was hooked. I have been pre-ordering from Amazon since Book 4. In fact, looking back at my records I discovered that when I pre-ordered that book in March of 2000, its pre-release title was Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament. (The final title was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)
Some literary snobs are critical of JK Rowling's writing, but I think there are several things that set this series apart. First, it has great characters. My first rule when I read fiction is that I have to care about the characters. This is never a problem when reading Harry Potter, even when he is going through the awkward changes of adolescence and one would occasionally want to throttle him. Which brings me to what I think is perhaps Rowlling's most outstanding achievement: the way she allows the characters to grow and change feels totally real.
Lots of series, for both adults and children suffer from becoming repetitive and predictable. (A Series of an Unfortunate Events is like the old Shirley Temple movies, once you've read one you know what will happen). Every Harry Potter book has been unique. The story has become darker and more complex, but I think Rowling is also showing a tremendous amount of respect for her younger readers. The changes her characters face mirror the changes adolescents face in real life. There are many examples of this, but of course, the most obvious is Harry's relationship with Dumbledore. Fortunately, most of us don't face the literal loss of our adult mentors so soon, but everyone experiences the painful lesson of realizing a parent or similar figure is not perfect and can not rescue us.
In book 6 we clearly saw Harry growing into a mature, responsible young man. This development is all the more satisfying since we have followed him through his tempestuous early teenage years. Rowling certainly has a more positive attitude toward teenagers than most of the people who write television shows. Besides helping millions of young people discover the joy of reading, she has also provided a story with a solid message about the value of love and friendship. That is why these books are great to read whatever your age.