EXPeriencing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoiler-Filled Review Pt. 2)

Cover image via.

This review/stream-of-consciousness digestion of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is going to be full of spoilers. You have been warned. You can read my non-spoiler review here.

There is a lot to unpack in J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne’s play. So much, in fact, that this is less a review and more of a list of reactions I had while reading. I’ll expand on some of my thoughts, but since this is full of spoilers, really I’m just here to share my thoughts. And there were a lot of them.

Seriously, if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet, turn back now. Spoilers are coming.

Part One, Act One

  • That the play started exactly where we left off on Platform 9 3/4 in the Epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows makes my heart so happy. An effortless marriage of old and new.
  • As we follow Albus and Rose on the Hogwarts Express, it is clear Rose takes after her mother.
  • And we meet Scorpius. And he is my favorite. He’s funny, and we later learn he’s smart and loyal. All the things Harry found in his friends on the Hogwarts Express.
  • OMG, Albus Potter is sorted into Slytherin?? Did we know this before? Did this play reveal this information? Omg. I’m uncomfortable. But then… I’m thrilled. I’m a Slytherin myself, and as Harry said, the bravest man he ever knew was a Slytherin. Let’s see where this goes.
  • Why are there rumors that Voldemort had a child? That’s weird.
  • It’s also weird to picture Harry and Hermione with jobs. I have a job. They’re supposed to epitomize my childhood. And they have jobs.
  • Wait. Is Hermione… Minister of Magic? Duh. Of course she is.
  • “Huh, another new character. I wonder who this Delphi character turns out to be?” she thought, not knowing her own foreshadowing.
  • Oh boy, time turners.
  • The confrontation between Albus and Harry before Albus leaves for his third year is… rough. I still remember hating everything and everyone as a 13 year old. But now, while I don’t have kids, I see where Harry’s frustration is coming from. I’m at a very odd spot in adulthood where I still feel so connected to my childhood, but all my friends are having babies. I feel for you, Albus. I feel for you, Harry.
  • Can we talk about the Trolley Witch?? WTF is happening?? And how the hell do they pull that off on stage?
  • Can a Potter not break into the Ministry of Magic? And can someone please put some stricter regulations on polyjuice potion ingredients? Hello.
  • Also, again, how are they accomplishing these effects on stage?

Part One, Act Two

  • Ugh, time travel. This is not going to result in anything resembling good. At all.
  • There’s no way sabotaging Cedric Diggory will go well for you, kids.
  • Oh. I don’t think I needed Dumbledore and Harry emotions today.
  • “What’s that, Albus? You’re in the wrong Hogwarts house now and you ruined at least one family? However could that have happened?” she thought sarcastically.
  • Oh good, we get Harry/Dumbledore and Harry/Malfoy drama! Just what we need. Although, that was pretty classic and entertaining.
  • We also get some classic, heart-wrenching Hogwarts student bestie fights. Ahh, wouldn’t be a Harry Potter book without them!
  • I just love the Scorpius/Albus BFFs.
  • WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, SCORPIUS? You brought Umbridge back! Your best friend disappeared! FIX IT.

Part Two, Act One

  • Wow, Draco, the absence of Voldemort and the addition of your wife really made you a better person. In the correct timeline, anyway.
  • DID HE SAY SNAPE?
  • Honestly, I can’t process the horrors that come about from humiliating Cedric out of the Triwizard Tournament. It hurts my heart. Just fix it, Scorpius.
  • Oh thank god. Thank you, Snape. Thank you, Scorpius. Thank you.
  • How is there still an Act and a half to go??
  • Seriously, Albus/Scorpius may top Harry/Ron/Hermione. They’re my favorite.
  • Ah. Delphi. You’re back. That means you’re not good.
  • Friendship will never be a weakness, Delphi. Only evil people think that. You take after your father so well.

Part Two, Act Two

  • It’s truly incredible how far Voldemort’s tendrils spread. It will take so many generations to erase all that he did. You know, if Delphi doesn’t do it right now and elimiate everyone we know and love.
  • Albus and Scorpius are a pretty unstoppable team. I love the message in a blanket. Not only is it really damn important to inform Harry where and when they are, it repairs the most painful scene in the whole play.
  • This is going to be an uncomfortable series of scenes, isn’t it?
  • Yup. Harry was just transfigured into Voldemort. I’m uncomfortable.
  • Oh. John. Jack. J.K…. No. Don’t do this to Harry. Don’t do this to his family, his friends. Don’t do this to me. Why.
  • BRB, sobbing.
  • Harry Potter continues to break my heart. But then, thankfully, it mends it, too:

SCORPIUS: Are you heading to Quidditch? Slytherin are playing Hufflepuff—it’s a big one—

ALBUS: I thought we hated Quidditch?

SCORPIUS: People can change.

And:

HARRY: I think it’s going to be a nice day.

ALBUS (smiles): So do I.

I melt.

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EXPeriencing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Review Pt. 1)

Cover image via.

I’m a privileged member of the Harry Potter generation. I grew up with Harry and have been reading J.K. Rowling’s books for more than 15 years. When I discovered Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was being released last weekend, I had two thoughts:

1.) How did I not know this was coming out this weekend?!

2.) I get to read a new Harry Potter story for the first time!

The magic of books 1-7 will always be fresh in mind and I will never not love reading them, but you only have one chance to experience a story for the first time. I thought this story was brilliant.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not a novel, but a play in two parts by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany based on an original story by J.K. Rowling. It picks up exactly where we left off 19.5 years later in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Harry and Ginny are sending their sons James and Albus off to Hogwarts. Albus is of course nervous since it’s his first year, and Harry reassures him that everything will be okay.

Instead of closing the back cover of the book and weeping because it’s the end, we get to turn the page. It’s just the beginning. We follow Albus on his adventure with his cousin Rose Granger-Weasley on the Hogwarts Express as they head to school for the first time. Unfortunately, now I can’t tell you any more of what happens because literally everything else is a spoiler. (I will publish a spoiler-heavy review soon!) Long story short: Albus gets in more trouble than Harry did. Everything is not okay.

You may have heard a lot of mixed reviews since the play was released, and I think the first reason for this is the vehicle of the story itself: not many people are used to reading plays. If the last time you read a play script was Romeo & Juliet in high school, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child might be farther out of your comfort zone than you’d like. J.K. Rowling writes illustrative portraits and paints scenes in great detail. Conversely, you hardly get any detail in the play script. There are very few stage directions or scene descriptions. I would say the play is 90% dialogue. That can be hard to follow if you’re not an avid play-, Ernest Hemingway-, or Raymond Carver-reader.

The fact that it’s a play may also makes it feel like the characters are a little flat. There are no, “Hermione said sarcastically and rolled her eyes,” no “Ron laughed and chucked a fanged frisbee at Harry.” The only real inflection direction I recall is Ginny said something “[drier than dry]” which still isn’t much direction when you’re used to J.K. Rowling’s adverbs.

The other thing people probably aren’t loving—as I had a moment of “Really?” myself—is (very mild spoiler here) there’s time travel. And not Hermione-going-to-two-classes-at-once time travel, but Doctor Who levels of time travel. It’s actually pretty trope-y. In addition to the tropiness, I think what may bother some people is that this is a new story with new characters, but it’s heavily woven into the stories of the characters we already hold so dear. It takes what we know and says, “Look, things can change if you’re not careful.” That results in every child’s hope, and every parent’s fear.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, it doesn’t matter what I or anyone says—you’ll buy this book if you haven’t already. You’ll read it in two days like I did, and you’ll clutch it to your chest because you still love these characters like you did when you were 12, and you realize there’s room in your heart for a few more. And you’ll be sad, because J.K. Rowling said, “Harry is done now.” But you’ll always be able to go back to Hogwarts. Just crack open a book and read.

EXPeriencing Harry Potter Escapism as an Adult

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.” —Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

As I wrote in my last blog post, the Harry Potter series was with me through the entirety of my adolescence, a decidedly tough time in my life. I could escape into the world of witchcraft and wizardry and forget about my problems, even while Dumbledore spoke truths that helped me combat those problems in the real world.

I started re-reading Harry Potter last month out of frustration because I couldn’t find the book I had already started and my e-reader was dead so I couldn’t pick up any of the books I had downloaded there. I was actually kind of hesitant to re-read the series—what if it wasn’t quite as great as I remembered? What if the movies had overridden how I viewed Hogwarts in my head 15 years ago?

After the past few weeks I’ve had, I couldn’t have picked a better time to re-read this series. Between the stresses of being an adult, owning a house, working full-time, and trying to keep up a regular running schedule while maintaining a clean house and grocery shopping and cooking dinner is enough adulting as it is. But when you add in the personal and family issues I’ve been struggling with recently (that I just don’t have the stamina or heart to get into right now), that’s about all the life one person can take and still pretend to function as a normal human being.

(Oh, and the answers to my worries: it’s exactly as great as I remembered, and while I do picture a lot of the cast and locations from the movies, it only enhances the preexisting images I conjured up myself.)

Just as Harry Potter helped me as a teenager when I was hormonal and crazy and thought the world revolved around high school band competitions, it’s helping me again. When it all feels like too much and I can’t breathe, visiting Hogwarts helps calm my mind, slow my heart rate, and fall into an adventure much more dangerous and fascinating than real life. So what if J.K. Rowling uses verb-adverb combos too much (the phrase “floating weirdly” was definitely a struggle for me), so what if these books were “technically” written for children? They speak universal truths and they create a world so rich and full that it’s impossible not to escape right into the pages the moment you find yourself back in Harry’s room on Privet Drive during his summer holidays.

Thanks to Harry Potter, I didn’t just exist through life until now, I lived. And thanks to Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling, of course) once more, I think I’ll be able to get through this rough patch of adulting just a little happier than I would have without Harry, Hermione, Ron, and all the rest of the wizarding world.

Re-EXPeriencing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Cover photo via.

I’m part of the lucky generation that got to grow up with Harry Potterliterally. Although Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1998, I somehow avoided reading it until two years later… when I was 11 years old. I must have had friends tell me I needed to read it, likely my best friend Karen, who influenced much of my reading in my younger years. In the spring of 2000, my mom bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban all at once, and I immediately devoured them.

(Side note: I was a bit of brat about books in my pre-teen years. Check them out from the library? Oh no. I must own every book I want to read. Every. Book. Fortunately, I did actually read about 95% of the books I was purchased. And I was definitely never hard to shop for during the holidays.)

Not long after I inhaled the first three Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released. My mom took me to Borders to buy it, but when we got there, there were none available for the general public. You had to have pre-ordered the book months in advance. Me being new to the Harry Potter ‘verse, I had no idea this was something I was supposed to have done. I was actually pretty devastated that I couldn’t just go buy the next book in my new favorite series at my favorite book store. To my eternal gratitude, a woman who overheard our exchange with the Borders employee told me and my mom that there were stacks of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Walmart, all up for the taking. My mom immediately drove me to the nearest Walmart and there inside the doors were palettes of the book. I gleefully grabbed the best one from the pile and went home to read. Like the first three books, I read this one in one sitting. Unlike the first three books, it made me bawl my eyes out. Cedric Diggory’s death, to my memory, is the first time a book broke my heart. I was still just 11.

The next year, the first movie was released in theaters. I was there opening weekend, mother in tow, and I loved it. It was so close to the book! (With a couple noted and aggravating changes, but you can’t keep everything.) I applauded at the end with the rest of the theater. My favorite book series had come to life! I saw it twice more in theaters.

I saw the second movie twice in theaters, but it didn’t hold quite the same magic as the first. The first movie was just a little bit closer to the book, just a little closer to my imagination, just a little bit better… The Chamber of Secrets would actually be the last Harry Potter movie I saw in theaters before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1.

But then it was 2003. I was 14 years old, about to start high school, and full of teen angst. Harry was 15 years old and full of teen angst. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, and I had my mom take me to Walmart to get it on the release date. I sat down and read the book in 25 straight hours. I stopped for nothing. I toted the book to the bathroom; I took my meals in my bedroom. And I accidentally cracked into a Budweiser that was in the fridge thinking it was a Diet Coke because I couldn’t take my nose out of the book long enough to know I had grabbed the wrong can… (I still can’t drink Bud to this day, though, why would I want to?)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was and is still my favorite Harry Potter book. I identified with Harry in that book so acutely—the angst, the unfairness! Blindly charging forward on what you think is right and getting beat back because you were wrong. Granted nothing I ever did right or wrong was on the level of Harry Potter… but man I wished it was. The escapism of all books helped me get through my childhood, but it was far and away Harry Potter that led the charge. Dreaming of Hogwarts took me far from my problems, but still allowed me to work through the universal teenage issues I faced.

In 2005, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released, and Harry and I were both 16. Fortunately I could drive, so I drove myself to Walmart at midnight to pick up the book. Shit got real in The Half-Blood Prince, and like all the other books, I sat down to read it in one sitting. How convenient all these books were released in the summer so no pesky school could get in the way of me staying up all night reading! This is actually the book I’ve re-read the least to this date.

And finally, two years later in 2007, I had graduated from high school and was preparing to begin my first year at Ball State, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. Again at midnight, I drove myself to Walmart and bought the book. Again, I read it through the night—and had to take my first ever break from reading a Harry Potter book. I passed out around 8 in the morning and had to pick the book up again during the next day. I no longer had the reading stamina of a 14-year-old. I cried a lot over those two days. More tears than most any other book I’ve ever read. My heart broke over and over again because the characters I had grown up with were dying and suffering, and there was nothing I could do but read on and cry. I was even lucky enough to relive all of this when The Deathly Hallows Pts. 1 and 2 were released in theaters in 2010 and 2011!

I’ve never written all this out before, and no one probably cares. But I can’t help but think it shows just how lucky I was to be the same age as Harry as I not only read his story, but also grew up with him. Only a sliver of a generation got to experience this, and now no one else really can the way we did. The books are all out there. An 11-year-old kid can knock the whole series out in a week and not know what it’s like to wait for seven years to know why Harry’s scar hurt him so badly, or to wait for Ron and Hermione to finally kiss, or to understand all of Snape’s motives. I in agony for two years to know if Sirius Black, my favorite character, was really dead or not. Kids today need only wait a day. Or a few hours, as many will likely gravitate toward the movies first, seeing bits and pieces on an ABC Family Harry Potter weekend. That’s no way to know and love Harry Potter, but that’s probably how many children—and adults, let’s be honest—will come to know him.

And that leads into my most current re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each time a new book was released, I would re-read the whole series. Well, to be transparent, when The Half-Blood Prince and then The Deathly Hallows came out, I started with The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, respectively. My nearly-adult self didn’t have time to mess with a pre-teen’s problems. So while I have read The Sorcerer’s Stone probably five or six times (there were definitely a few re-reads during the years in between book releases), I haven’t read it in years, and not since the final book came out.

Knowing all of Harry’s story, from the conclusion of The Deathly Hallows to the extra material J.K. Rowling has produced throughout the years, reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a surreal but wonderful experience. I cracked open the book last week (literally, cracked. After half a dozen read-throughs by myself and one or two from Terry, the 15-year-old spine is getting pretty weak), and was flooded by memories. I was also truly astounded by how much is foreshadowed, teased, and teed up in this book. When Ginny sees Harry at Platform Nine and Three-quarters and is obsessed with him as only a 10-year-old can be, it was the strangest sensation thinking, Huh, they get married and have kids together. Or, likewise, when Ron can’t stand Hermione in their first few months at Hogwarts, thinking, Well, we know they have some additional problems when they’re a bit older, but they get married, too. And then everything with Snape… Every time he shows up and Harry is suspicious of him, every time you think Snape is doing wrong, every time Snape is horrible to Harry… This whole read-through I knew he loved Lily. So much of what he did in this first book was to help protect Harry because he loved Harry’s mother. Harry’s hatred of Snape kicks off in The Sorcerer’s Stone, but he later names one of his sons after him. Let me tell you what I never saw coming when I was 11.

It’s surreal how much changes and develops from an 11-year-old kid learning he’s a wizard to the darkest wizard of all time’s second rise to power and subsequent defeat. From the basic Elixir of Life to bring Voldemort back to learning about the complexity of the seven deathly hallows… everything springs from this book. Reading it with the knowledge of the whole series behind you, while not exactly illuminating any new knowledge, it certainly shows how carefully J.K. Rowling crafted this world and why it’s such an enduring, important, and spectacular series.

While my 11-year-old self would be appalled that it took me four days to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I enjoyed taking my time with the book and reliving my childhood again. I’m looking forward to re-reading the rest of the series over the next couple weeks, especially the later books that I’ve only read a couple times. Hopefully there are a few extra nuggets of foreshadowing I can pick up on. And hopefully I don’t cry quite as much as I did the first time I read the books. Though I’m not getting my hopes up.

Have you re-read Harry Potter recently? If not, I highly suggest you dive in for a re-read. You’ll be surprised with how much nostalgia is packed into the first 309 pages of the series. Go on, you know you want to…