When my daughter found out that a new book in the Harry Potter franchise was being published this summer, she insisted we pre-order it so she could start reading it the day of its release. I explained to her that the book wouldn’t be like the original series she devoured in elementary school. “It’s a play,” I said. “The ‘book’ is the play’s script. It’s not going to read like the other stories.” But that didn’t matter to my 11-year-old. All she cared about was the fact that she was going to get to read more about her beloved Harry, even if he was now an adult and the dad of one of the play’s main characters. So we placed our Amazon order and counted the days until the book’s arrival on our doorstep.
True to her promise, my bookworm tore through “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with the same vigor and delight as the original seven books. In the two days it took her to finish the play, she squealed and gasped more times than I could count as she battled the urge to tell me what was happening. She appeared to love the new characters as much as she enjoyed the many cameo appearances of the ones from the original series. When she finished the book, she sighed and frowned. “Don’t tell me how it ended,” I warned. “But why do you look so sad?” I feared a disappointing ending or even the death of a favorite character. “It’s over,” she said, instead. “Again.”
Her answer took me back to July 2007 when I read the ending to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.” Even though the final chapter left me satisfied as a reader, the thought of not having another Harry Potter tale to read filled me with sadness.
So what is it about the series that made us feel this way? It has everything to do with the characters. And not just one character. All of them. We cared about Harry, Hermione and Ron, of course, but also the Weasley family, Neville, Luna and Cedric. We couldn’t wait for Hagrid to let another secret accidentally slip out. We eagerly turned the pages just to see what sage piece of advice Dumbledore would give. We continually wondered from chapter to chapter and book to book whether Snape was good or bad. We loathed Professor Umbridge and cheered out loud when Molly Weasley ended Bellatrix. Heck, even the creatures and pets in the series hold a special place in our hearts.
J.K. Rowling has an undeniable gift of creating characters that tug at her readers’ heartstrings. It’s one of the many reasons I admire her and re-read her books, hopeful that some of her magic transfers to me. As a writer, there’s so much I can learn from how she crafted her characters. Each and every one served a meaningful purpose in the series. Whether you loved them, pitied them, despised them or wept over them, they all connected with readers in such profound ways.
After my daughter said what she said about the play, I almost didn’t read the new story. Part of me just wanted the original series to be all I ever knew about Harry and his friends. And part of me knew I would reach the ending of the play and be sad that it was over. Again.
But then I did what any Harry Potter fan would do – I opened the book. I couldn’t help myself. That’s the power that well written characters have on readers. I had to see what happens next.