Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—First Read

No, you didn’t misread the title.

It says first read.

As in, I’d never read a Harry Potter book before. Not a single one. I’ve never watched any of the movies. My life, up until recently, has been entirely Harry Potter-less.

Go ahead. Take a moment to gasp or scream. I understand. It’s the way I react when someone tells me they’ve never read or watched The Lord of the Rings.

How can this even happen, you’re wondering? How, when the entire world was going crazy about Harry Potter, did I not pick up a book to see what all the fuss was about?

Here’s the thing—I did try to read the first book. I guess it was when I was in high school, or shortly after. And I just couldn’t do it. I read the first chapter (actually, I’m not even sure I got that far) and put it down because I just wasn’t into it. Harry Potter was clearly for children and I was in a stage where I didn’t want to read anything that wasn’t written by Chuck Palahniuk or Bret Easton Ellis. Clearly, I wasn’t exactly in the right mindset for a middle grade book about wizards.

I also didn’t have many friends who were super in love with Harry Potter, so I didn’t have anyone to convince me it was worth my time.

Then I became part of the YA community. And, well, the Harry Potter love is strong.

Suddenly, not having read the series became a Thing. I fell silent anytime the books came up in conversation. I ignored the zillions of Harry Potter gifs I saw on Twitter. And I started to think maybe I was missing out.  

Not to mention, I’m attending LeviosaCon this summer. Sure, I’m going for the YA writing track—but I’ll still be surrounded by Harry Potter everything. It seems pretty awkward to wander a Harry Potter convention when you know zero things about the series.  

So, last week, I decided to begin my first read of Harry Potter.

The amazing thing is, I managed to avoid A LOT of spoilers over the years. Sure, I’ve heard bits and pieces—but when you have no idea what characters people are talking about, or even what the plot really is, those bits of information don’t sink in.

I was talking with my friends a while back (before I started my read) about what house I’d be in. Someone suggested Gryffindor. I was like, “I have no idea what that means.” And they were shocked I’d made it so long without even knowing the most basic things. I don’t know how I accomplished that feat. But it certainly made my first read more fascinating.

My biggest takeaway from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is that suddenly there are all sorts of references I get. (Even little things, like finally understanding those disgusting flavored HP jelly beans my brother used to eat when he was little.)

I met characters who I’d heard mention of for years but knew absolutely nothing about. It’s sort of like when you have a friend who’s always talking to you about their other friend, and then you finally meet them in person.

Here’s one of the things that amused me: Before reading, I knew there was a character named Dumbledore and that he was some sort of head wizard guy. I’ve seen some images from the movies of course, so I had a visual of what I thought this Dumbledore dude looked like. But when I read the book, the description of Dumbledore was drastically different than the movie character. So I Googled, and discovered that all these years, the movie character I assumed was Dumbledore was actually Hagrid. Oops.

Aside from being excited about finally getting (some) Harry Potter references, my feeling of the book as a whole was that I liked it, but didn’t passionately love it.

I had the same struggle with the beginning that I’d had years ago. It was very young and I’m most certainly not the target audience. But I got more invested in the story as the book went on. (And I’ve been told by many people that as the series continues and the characters age up, this becomes less of an issue.)

I do like the characters though—at this point, with only one book under my belt, Ron is definitely my favorite.

And I really enjoyed the end of the book. I was surprised at the reveal that Professor Quirrell was the actual villain. The whole time Harry was convinced it was Snape, so I just went along with it. Which in retrospect, is stupid. I know that Snape is a major part of the series. What did I think was going to happen? Snape would be caught trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone and everyone would just shrug and let him continue teaching at Hogwarts? So, yeah, I feel a little dumb about that one—but on the other hand, it meant the ending genuinely surprised me, which was awesome.

In a lot of ways, I feel like the first book was getting me acclimated to the world, and more exciting things are waiting in the future.

As I said, I didn’t fall madly in love with Harry Potter based on the first book alone, but I’m definitely excited to keep reading. Which I’ll do as soon as the second book become available at the library (all these years after the book has come out, with tons of copies in circulation, and there’s still a waiting list).

And at the very least, I’m happy I no longer have to wonder what the hell a Gryffindor is.