That's as damning a statement I can make about a series that I spent countless hours obsessing over, sharing my insights and thoughts with other fans, debating, writing essays, reading and writing fanfic. I have Deathly Hallows on order, and I expect that I'll read it immediately once I get my hands on my copy, BUT I'm not feeling the same level of excitement and anticipation that I felt before the release of Order of the Phoenix or even, Half-Blood Prince. My level of expectations have fallen dramatically. All I want now is to see how Jo Rowling set out to plot this immense series so many years ago.
I want to know if all my questions will be answered, or if she'll leave plot threads hanging everywhere like the backside of my first counted cross stitch picture I made at age ten.
For the record, my favorite book of all time is Aztec by Gary Jennings. It is an amazing work of fiction that does not have a single detail that is extraneous. Every seeming aside or amusing anecdote comes into play later in the story. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart. It has graphic violence, graphic sexuality, and human sacrifices galore. That being said, I still am in awe of that novel twenty years after my first reading of it. I've likened that novel to an immense tapestry where every detail was neatly tied off.
I thought after reading the first four volumes in the HP series that JKR had taken a similar attentiveness to detail like Gary Jennings and stretched it over an entire series. Now, as I mentioned in previous posts, I am less likely to think that everything in this series was as well thought out as I had previously thought.
I'm not a big fan of genre romances. That comes from having read a few of them when I was in high school and having a problem with how one novelist chose to structure her stories. I didn't care for the formulaic structure which included having the heroine's first sexual experience coming from a rape, and then later having a dashing man show her the true meaning of love and passion. It was as if the author was afraid of having the heroine make a conscious decision to lose her virginity. I read two books by the same author with basically the same plotline, and I lost my interest in reading genre romances shortly after that experience.
:shakes head at the memory, and the residual bad taste in my mouth:
I enjoy romance in novels, but as I mentioned before I am not a consumer of genre romances per se. It is a huge and profitable part of the publishing industry, but they aren't making their billions of dollars based on my purchases. I am not someone who expects that every romantic storyline end happily at the end of a book. In fact, I prefer not knowing whether or not there will be a happy resolution for a romantic couple.
That way I will more likely have a richer emotional experience while reading.
I enjoy reading stories that move me to tears, to laughter, and that will astound me in other ways. Betrayal is a powerful act, and when committed by a loved one hurts more than when done by a friend or an acquaintance. If there is romance in a story, I want to vicariously feel as if I am falling in love. I want to feel the attraction as well as the nervous excitement that comes with wondering whether or not the romantic feelings are reciprocated.
There is also the idea of sacrificing your own happiness for the benefit of others or out of concern for propriety. This is shown by Tristand and Isolde, Cyrnano de Bergerac, Brokeback Mountain, and The Thorn Birds.
Unrequited love churns up powerful emotions as does being rejected and/or betrayed by someone you love. All are rife with potential dramatic conflict, as does fear of rejection which leads to lovers doing stupid things in order to protect themselves. This includes dumping someone prematurely out of fear of being dumped.
So when I was debating ship with people, I was fine with the idea of a Love Triangle within the Trio. Many people were averse to that idea because they didn't want Harry and Ron to fight over Hermione.
I didn't have a problem with it because it would be filled with conflict and therefore make for good drama.
I thought it was a certainty, because love triangles are such powerful dramatic structures. It turns out that Jo used lots of love triangles except the one that would have put her lead characters put into the position of having to face big dramatic decisions regarding loyalty, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Jo had said in interviews that she wanted her characters to be "truly seventeeen and discover boyfriends and girlfriends have sexual feelings."
And yet...we don't truly get that sense in her books. We aren't allowed to feel what Harry is feeling when it comes to romance.
In the Harry Potter series, we have not been allowed to feel Harry falling in love. It is as if Jo took his emotions and put them at arm's length. We know he fancied Cho, but until Order of the Phoenix we really didn't have much of a description about her. She had been described as "extremely pretty" in Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as being a head shorter than Harry. In Goblet of Fire we knew what color ball gown she wore, but not much else. Other than that, we really didn't have much to go on. Due to her name it was assumed that she was of Asian ethnicity and fanfic artists gave her black hair and brown eyes.
Then in Order of the Phoenix we had Harry's first kiss. And she made it happen off-the-page.
I think Jo was afraid that her readers might become emotionally invested in a Harry/Cho relationship, so while she allowed him to have some snogging, she kept it from us. We saw the mistletoe, Cho's freckles, tears in her eyelashes, but then the scene went black. Later, we heard what happened when Harry was interrogated by Hermione and he admitted that they kissed, but that Cho broke down and cried in his arms.
Tell me this, wouldn't you have liked to have read that scene? I would have. I would have liked to have seen Harry to sit down and try to tell Cho what happened to Cedric, to answer her questions as best he could. And for her to cry on his shoulder and he try his best to comfort her.
Hurt/Comfort a powerful dramatic emotional dynamic for romance.
However, we didn't see this because he didn't comfort her to any real extent and he didn't talk to her about Cedric's death. To me that was selfish on his part, and I don't care for that. Cho's character deserved as much honesty as he could give her, even if it might have caused her to be fearful of being his girlfriend.
I wrote a scene in my 5th year fic showing how I felt Harry should answer Cho's questions, and I was correct in my plot structure by thinking that she would seek him out on the Hogwarts Express. Silly me though, I actually had him respond to her inquiries without using Stinksap to cause her to run from the scene.
I liked the Valentine's Day Date Disaster in Madam Puddifoot's, even though the day of their date was February 17th and not the 14th. (Remember, I'm a L.O.O.N., I check the calendar for these kinds of things. Their date was on Valentine's Day because JKR wanted to raise the stakes of his embarrassment for leaving Cho early to be with Hermione.)
Harry didn't seem all that keen to try and make up with Cho afterward. He was confused about what she expected from him, but he didn't terribly depressed over his first date being a fiasco.
Later after the Quibbler article came out and Cho said she thought he was brave, we didn't see Harry wanting to figure out when or where he could be alone with her. It was as if he didn't have time to think about such matters of the heart. (I know, I know, OotP was long enough as it was, JKR didn't need to spend more time on the romance subplot that didn't go anywhere...)
However, when Harry and Cho had their argument over Marietta and then Hermione, we didn't really feel as if our hero was all that upset that things weren't going well with his love interest. Where was Harry's feeling of betrayal? It was negligible. However, Cho felt as if he valued darling Hermione over her.
He did, and he didn't put too much thought about trying to get back on Cho's good side after that point.
Not much of a love story there. It was a flat emotional storyline which could have had peaks and valleys. Possibly this is all part of the Nigredo aspect that John Granger keeps writing about. Me? I just look at it as a means to show that the Harry/Cho relationship didn't have much of a chance and it is something no one should want to see resurrected.
This leads my discussion to the Harry/Ginny romantic subplot. I have to say that it just didn't work for me.
We had hints that Harry liked Ginny, what with the Amortencia potion smelling flowery like something from the Burrow which was later confirmed to being Ginny's smell, then came the monster in his chest when he saw Dean and Ginny snogging. We also got clues that Ginny was popular with the guys due to her looks. Pansy became concerned when the Weasley girl's name was mentioned and it is apparent she was worried Draco might be attracted to the redhead.
It seemed as if overnight Ginny was Miss Popularity at Hogwarts and all the guys were drooling over her. The easiest way to explain sudden popularity in the teenaged years comes down my bringing up the subject of appearances. To say it without mincing words its the "Ginny Grew a Rack Theory."
Sorry if that offends anyone.
I also kept misreading "monster in his chest" to be monster in his pants.
Honestly, I didn't come away with the idea that Ginny was this funny, powerful, *insert positive adjective here* witch that blossomed and was all of a sudden noticed by everyone. Instead it seemed more likely that puberty struck and treated her well.
The thing that bothers me the most about the Harry/Ginny ship is that once they got together, from the public kiss in the Gryffindor common room that we did not get to see them together as a couple.
I expected to have a tender scene with Harry and Ginny expressing their feelings toward one another. I wanted something to make me realize that yes, they complemented each other rather than simply complimented each other. In other words, I thought JKR would seal the deal and make me and all of her readers become sold on the romantic pairing.
She didn't. We got a line with Harry daydreaming when he was supposed to be doing homework and was instead "reliving a particularly happy hour he had spent down by the lake with Ginny at lunchtime."
Now, I'm not saying I needed or wanted to read detailed snog sessions. I'm saying that JKR should have written a scene where Harry and Ginny talked with one another about yup: their feelings!
Then there was the break up scene. Shortly after HBP was published I came across someone's blog on LiveJournal where they did screen captures from the first Spider-Man movie and compared the scene where Peter Parker denied his love to Mary Jane at the funeral of Norman Osborne to the Harry/Ginny break up at Dumbledore's funeral.
It was almost verbatim. So much so that I felt cheated. I don't know if JKR had always planned to have their break up at Dumbledore's funeral or not, but it was the same type of noble hero trying to protect his beloved by saying they can't be together.
It was clichéd.I expected more. Then again, I'm not a big fan of Jane Austen. To me, figuring out which couples are going to connect among the nobility is not something that I find terribly entertaining. I read Emma for research for the shipping debates and I have to say that I wasn't enthralled with the romance. It was as if Emma's heart was securely locked away whilst she was merrily trying to play Cupid with others around her. It would have been a far different book if she had allowed herself to fall in love with Frank Churchill, then when his secret engagement to Jane Fairfax was revealed then Emma would have felt rejected, jilted, betrayed, etc.
Instead, it was far more clinical and detached.
I guess that's the big difference in what I look for in romance versus what J.K. Rowling looks for in romance. It didn't work for me at all, and I'm disappointed for it could have been more, much more.
I'll post my thoughts later on the Interview From Hell and explain what that means if you are scratching your head. I think J.K. Rowling was badly served by her internet friends and unwittingly insulted a large portion of her fanbase. Had she done things a little differently, she could have mitigated the bad feelings.
She didn't and for that, I feel terribly disappointed in her as an author. That to me has left me with a bad taste in my mouth in regards to the series, far more than my betting on the wrong romantic couple in the Hogwarts Love Sweepstakes.