My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After reading the first Harry Potter book, I was not compelled to continue with the series. However, after many assertions from various friends that "things get good in the 3rd one!" I decided to give Potter another try. Needless to say, my initial perception of the books did not change much. They are cute, fun, fast reads. They are very imaginative, and clearly in a way that is appreciated by a majority of readers. However, the quality of Rowling's writing is just . . . not good.
As a writer, reader, English major, and pseudo-linguist, I cannot help but criticize several essential aspects of J.K. Rowling's writing style. For one thing, for all the imagination she displays, Rowling does not trust her own readers' imaginations. If she did, she would not need to have two modifiers for every noun and verb she writes. Harry always has to look curiously. Hermione has to ask thoughtfully. Every physical attribute and emotion has to be described in the most elaborate terms, and yet with plain, simple, easily understood language. (Still, to be fair, these books would make fabulous vocabulary builders for gradeschool children.)
My second gripe, beyond Rowling's overuse of modifiers, is the flatness of her characters. Truly, not one of them changes. Perhaps hidden information is revealed about some of them (e.g. Sirus Black), but not one of them undergoes any sort of personal learning or transformative experience. Additionally, all of them are drawn from such stock, cliche character types, I cannot even suspend my disbelief far enough to care about or relate to any of them on a personal level. The closest I may ever come is to Hermione's perfectionism and goody-two-shoes nature, but she is so true to that very stereotype, and the instances when she breaks from her stereotype are so predictable, that I do not even relate to her. It makes for a slightly more boring, much less compelling book.
Oddly enough, I may end up reading the remaining books in the series, merely in order to have a common ground with so many other readers. Also, in part, I may read them for the same reason I read the Twilight series: to see what the hype was all about. But based on my sample size of (now) two books, I stick to my original assertion: in terms of style and quality, these books are no more advanced than Stephanie Myers' creations.
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