Twelve years have passed since the film premiere of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, yet the spark of magic hasn’t dimmed in the slightest. The films helped launch the boy wizard from literary hero to pop-culture phenomenon and while many prestigious reviewers initially wrote off the book series no one could ignore Harry once he hit the big screen. To celebrate the anniversary of the first film’s release, Zola had 8 of your favorite characters do some book reviewing themselves.
Catcher in the Rye
You would think that teaching sniveling, incompetent students all day long would rid me of any desire to indulge in a young adult novel. I admit at the beginning I dared to hope that J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye could live up to its fanatical hype. I was sorely mistaken. The sheer amount of nonsense and drivel spouted from Holden Caulfield’s mind is unmatched by even my worst students, you know who you are, Weasley. The nerve of retreating to the private home of an instructor after being expelled shows disrespect in the highest regard. It put a poor taste in my mouth for the rest of the book and little that Mr. Salinger did could soothe my damaged palate. The focus on the boy’s virginity is juvenile in the highest regard. This shameful Hufflepuff with his insufferable whining could give even the most patient of women a headache, no wonder he remains celibate even when he attempts to pay for sex. When he finally does have a chance with the single female he finds tolerable, he promptly sabotages himself. How I read until this point I’ll never know. The allusion to the mental hospital is completely passé and whatever Mr. Salinger hoped to add to his story by including it is a mystery to me. There was nothing bewitching, ensnaring, or engaging about the novel. I’d sooner use it to fan my cauldron flames than lend to another individual, even one I had a particular loathing for. If you ever find yourself under the delusion that the entire literary world is correct, that this book is a masterpiece of youth fiction and that I cannot see it – think again. I’ll say what dear Mr. Caufield is so desperately afraid of: He is exactly like everyone else. I have taught 1,000 Holden Caufields and I’ll teach a thousand more. The single glimmer of intrigue that could have turned the novel around would have been the development of Phoebe. She is a character who sees through Holden’s thinly veiled ruse and has the plucky nerve to tell him. Overall, fifty points from Salinger for wasting my precious time.
War and Peace
I decided to pick this up as a bit of extra credit for Muggle Studies. I will post the link to my full analysis of the novel below as it severely exceeds the allowable word count.
Historical Fiction is my favorite genre for a lighthearted read. The lack of complete adherence to historical fact adds the opportunity for me to pick out every inaccuracy, if not on the first read, then the second, or third. Of course many of the historical elements of this are incorrect due to the lack of knowledge of the wizard involvement in this war. I do believe this book would not be well received at Durmstrang, which has many professors directly involved in this war.
I thoroughly enjoyed the way Tolstoy presented his views on history. Many historians of his time(and even a few today) believed that history was made by heroic acts. Tolstoy believed it was the little bits of cause and effect that truly made up history. It is a view shared by Professor Binns who knows that every little detail of every event is important to the event itself. I, for one, am glad to know about the rock in Urg the Unclean’s shoe which delayed the Goblin Rebellion by a full five minutes.
I adored the character Pierre. When he tried to free his serfs I was reminded of my own struggle to liberate the House Elves, a cause I still fight for to this day (I am still collecting donations for S.P.E.W.). His struggle to find meaning and virtue in a world of questionable morals was extremely well executed by Tolstoy. I find myself also struggling with these things.
I was not a huge fan of the Natasha character, though she was well written for what she was. Would it have killed Tolstoy to include a strong and intelligent female? He definitely knew they existed. Catherine the Great was not such a distant figure at the time.
My one complaint about the novel is that it was not nearly long enough. Hogwarts a History is at least three thousand pages longer and it does not waste its time with the fiction aspect. Tolstoy would have done well to maybe take a few thousand pages to go into the grittier details that he himself claims are so important.
This book inspires me to maybe write a companion novel of sorts. As a muggle, Tolstoy had no way of knowing that it was Ivan Drukowski, a wizard of note, that used the variants of the Glacius Spell to further harshen the Russian winter that lead to Napoleon’s retreat. A wizard version of these events might be an interesting twist.
In conclusion (for this shortened version at least), War and Peace is a delightful bit of weekend reading. I encourage you all to pick it up. I know I shall be quoting it all of this next week.
Fred and George Weasley
The Prince and the Pauper
Hello Gred and Forge here! Oy, Fred, I wanted to say that! Next time…anyways…we are here to talk about the muggle book The Prince and the Pauper. Because any book about switching places and playing tricks… is for us. Though we would have done it with much more flair and fireworks. So what happens is there is this Prince Edward fellow who is…well a prince, and this boy Tom Canty who…well isn’t a prince. They meet up and find they look super alike and decide to temporarily trade places…They do so pretty convincingly given’ that they aren’t even twins. I took notes for us, Gred, somehow mum usually guesses when we do it. Now their switching does cause plenty of mischief: Missing relics, fake coronations, and lots of confusion…but it all ends up for the better of England I’d say. I am not sure what was wrong with Prince Edward, leaving his riches…but he did change for the better. Hmmmm….I think Malfoy could use this treatment…what do ya say Georgie? I am thinking we’ve got some Polyjuice at the store…And some Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs!
The Graveyard Book
I hope most of you have already read this. It’s good, isn’t it? Nobody (that’s his name because he looks like Nobody except himself isn’t that clever?) can walk through objects and sees ghosts. He sees a lot that normal people miss and I guess I do too, or so it seems. It must be quite interesting to grow up with ghost parents; I’ve never seen my mom as a ghost. I very much liked that he has human friends, aside from the ghosts and vampires. All heroes need a good friend to invite on their adventures. The only critique I have is that the author could’ve done more research, everyone knows that vampires are not terribly persuasive and ghouls could never stop arguing long enough to kidnap anyone. But perhaps the author is a muggle and may not know better. I’ll send him a subscription to The Quibbler so his next novel is better informed. The creature descriptions were quite fantastic and the action was very fun. The end was terribly sad though, losing Scarlett yet again and then Bod having to leave the graveyard. No one should have to be separated from those they care about, but I suppose Bod has to die sometime and then he can visit them again.
Let me get this straight. Peter Pan, this homeless hooligan, kidnaps a girl from her bedroom in the middle of the night, throws a fit when she tries to return home, and is still considered the hero of this story? Personally I rooted for Hook the entire time. Peter and the Lost Boys live like savages in a hut that even the Weasleys wouldn’t tolerate. Surely Hook makes poor choices, kidnapping Wendy wasn’t a brilliant move on his part, but he’s backed into a corner. He’s a grown man that’s been stuck sailing round and round this forsaken island for who knows how long because a brat doesn’t want to share the land with him! I’ve already told my father to hunt down this Barrie fellow and demand a rewrite where Pan gets what’s coming to him. Despite his obvious and numerous faults Pan can do no wrong – the whole island continues this sick hero worship for the flying boy wonder. Now why does that sound familiar?
Romeo and Juliet
NOTE: William Shakespeare is not related to the Pureblood Shakespeare family. He is a filthy muggle so don’t read it. Unfortunately I was tricked into reading this book…TRICKED. Some stupid muggle girl falls in love with a stupid muggle boy. Their love is forbidden, like a pureblood and a muggle or the Dark Lord and his most loyal (married) servant. Frankly, I think they are perfect for each other. They both spout mush about love and the tragic situation they are in. Boo Hoo. Try spending a few years in Azkaban. The only appealing part of this is…THE BLOODSHED. There are sword fights and so many muggles die! Filthy disgusting muggles killing each other, all because they had to be idiots who decided they loved each other after one night. Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…ha…more like…where muggle blood fills Bellatrix with glee. There is a happy ending though, the two muggle idiots end up offing themselves in the end, as they deserve. Proving my theory, MUDBLOODS AND MUGGLES MUST DIE! LONG LIVE THE DARK LORD!
How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is a book I had read in my youth, in the days before that silly old fool Dumbledore visited me at my orphanage, before I knew the true nature of my abilities. I recently was looking through my old possessions. You see ever since Potter destroyed my diary I have been searching for a replacement hor…er…I mean diary. As I was saying, I found this and I remembered how I used to laugh while reading this book, as I had thought it was a joke. Reading it now I can see how honestly stupid this filthy muggle is. I am the most influential wizard of all time. My friends are my Death Eaters and they were won with very different methods. This book tells you not to criticize, it says to praise people and not to tell them when they are wrong. I cannot see the value in this. I took my rightful place as the greatest and most powerful wizard on earth through fear and truth. The truth is that I have power, all mudbloods are abominations, and anyone who stands in my way must die. The sooner wizards and muggles alike realize this the better. The book is also quite contradictory. It tells you to be honest, and when Pettigrew is acting like the sniveling rat he is I will most certainly tell him, but this breaks the rules of criticizing. This book claims that the way to be great is to be good, nice, and inspire these qualities in those under you. This is impossible. Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies. The great wizard philosopher, Machiavelli, once said that it is better to be feared and loved if one cannot be both. I hold to this truth, though I must say I am quite good at inspiring both.
I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I lack the ability to behave myself and because of that many people find it odd that I’m attracted to these Victorian stories where the women can be both well-behaved and also super independent. I’ve mastered one skill, the other not so much. Soulless gave a great mix of both with a bit of steampunk elements littered throughout and a nice interspecies romance thrown in there (and I’m no stranger to that!). The premise hooked me in – the idea that being soulless is a power within itself – Alexia, our lovely protagonist, is unaffected by the powers of supernatural beings like the vampires and werewolves that openly run around England (can you imagine?). Once I got into reading it she really had me though. The upstanding Alexia is ambushed at home by a vampire. After fretting about how her food will go to waste, she kills him with a bloody parasol! Nothing is better than a good ol’ fashioned buttocks-kicking heroine—even greater when she has her own style. The parasol is far from my fashion, I’ll stick with my wand, but I love Alexia using it. The silliness is fantastic, a book like this should never take itself too seriously (you sure know I don’t as a reader) and that makes it 100x more fun to read and what can I say, I have a soft spot in my heart for a little human-werewolf flirting.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.