As with my review of The Philosopher’s Stone, it seems laughable to publish a review about a Harry Potter book in 2022; yet here we are! My family and I worked through this audio-book on the second half of a road trip, again narrated by the incredible Stephen Fry. My five year old was fairly engaged throughout the story and found Mr Fry’s spooky basilisk voice quite suitably terrifying.
The story again followings Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, through a year of schooling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This year, there is a new blowhard teacher to contend with and the slight issue of Hogwarts attendees being attacked and petrified by an unknown assailant. There are creepy messages in blood written on the school walls, giant spiders trying eat children… You know, typical kid stuff.
In listening to this story with adult-ears I was again struck by the negligent school leadership and the pervasive lack of trust between children and adults. Throughout this novel, Harry is hearing voices, stumbling upon crime scenes, threatened by other students, and placed in incredibly unsafe situations by teachers… and never once does he reach out to a trusted adult (like his head of house) for help. Indeed, there is a scene where the headmaster Dumbledore is imploring him to share anything on his mind and he doesn’t. What is driving this? Is that common amongst the tween age group – to feel this lack of trust with authority figures? This inability to ask for help?
This is my least favourite HP novel because of the cringe factor – particularly all things to do with the flying car and Dobbie the house elf. The reckless endangerment that Harry and his friends get into blows my mind. You’ll recall the scene where, upon finding that the magical gateway to Platform 9 3/4 is blocked (by said well-intentioned-accidentally-homicidal house elf), Harry and Ron are unable to take the train to Hogwarts at the start of the school year. Rather than wait a few minutes for help, they elect to immediately steal and drive the Weasley family’s flying car for hours across the countryside. On what planet is that a good idea, particularly after Ron and his brothers were so recently punished for stealing the flying car to rescue Harry from his life with his muggle family?! And upon crashing the poor car, Ron’s wand is broken and not replaced throughout the entire school year. He is basically rendered incapable of performing magic for a full year of magical education… why was that not remedied (other than for eventual plot-reasons months late)? What kind of school is this?!?
I know, I know. I’m applying my adult brain to a kids book.
Overall: 2 boneless glove arms out of 5.