Everybody's been talking about it, but I've been covering my ears and hitting the handy little X in the corner of the screen whenever I see the words "Harry Potter" or especially "Book 7." You see, after saying to myself "wait... what?" about a hundred times while reading book 6, I decided it was absolutely necessary that I reread all the books before reading the final one. But I'm an idiot, and with book 7 coming out on the 21st, it didn't occur to me until about July 12th that I needed to get a move on. In the old days and with some serious concentration I probably could have pulled it off. However - have you heard? - I have a baby now, and she requires a large portion of my attention, and the sad result is that I am only now almost done with book 4.
The good news is that I'm really enjoying myself. I'd forgotten how much fun these books are! I think that reading them the first go-round I rushed through to see how the story ended, and failed to enjoy the wit and the character development and the Quidditch matches and the excellent plotting. These are only children's books but Rowling is a master of her craft - I would venture that the Harry Potters are the best children's books I've read that have been written in my lifetime. (Sorry, J.K. Lucy Maud has you beat.)
Rowling doesn't waste a scene. It's not so obvious when reading the books separately, but now that I'm reading them as a body I'm noticing how themes, relationships, and conflicts are developed from chapter to chapter, from book to book. Most authors of books for young people don't do their readers the favor of assuming they've got the intelligence and attention spans to handle this kind of complexity. Maybe the fact that Rowling does is part of what makes her books so popular.
I'm impressed, as well, by the sophistication of some of the concepts Rowling threads through her narrative, especially concerning good vs. evil. Anyone else ever noticed that, for instance, with her discussion of the Unforgivable Curses she's introducing the idea that torture and murder are intrinsically evil acts? And we could probably all do with a healthy dose of skepticism in re the almighty media; Rowling doles it out skillfully through the untrustworthy buzzings of the annoying Rita Skeeter.
It is testing my patience mightily to know that I've got two more books to read before I can get to the final episode of the story, but I know that in the end it'll have been much more rewarding to have done it this way than to have plodded through book 7 in a state of constant confusion. However, I am seeing my youngest brother tomorrow, and I know he finished the book within about eight hours of when he got it on Saturday, and I am going to squish him like a little bug if he dares so much as breathe a word to me about the tiniest detail of the last book. You hear that, bro?