Spoiler-Free Review & Midnight Release Recap: The Cursed Child8:00:00 AM
On the afternoon of July 30th, 2016, there was a palpable buzz in the air all around the world. For the first time in almost ten years, a new Harry Potter book was being released. And like any respectable potterhead, I had reserved my copy back in May and was eagerly counting down the hours until I met up with my friends at Barnes and Noble.
As a kid, I started reading Harry Potter when I was in the second grade. I was instantly hooked because I likened my experiences with school bullies to those Harry experienced, and having just switched schools I was in a world of lost and friendlessness. But thanks to Harry, I quickly found friends between the pages, as well as real life as I found others reading Harry’s stories for the first time alongside me. By the time I had gotten to the fifth book, the sixth wasn’t out yet. I begged and begged my mother to take me to the book release, but to no avail. This repeated a year later when the seventh and final book was released. I was devastated for years because I never got to experience the magic of these revered midnight release parties so many of my friends were able to attend.
Fast forward to this summer, the year I have graduated from high school and have grown alongside my favorite characters both on the page and on the screen for years prior. I had long thought my journey with Harry was over, but when it was announced that The Cursed Child was being published as a book I realized my childhood dream of attending a midnight release party might finally come true!
After hoarding my graduation present of a Barnes and Noble gift card for months on end and eagerly planning what I would wear to the event, the day arrived. Lillie came over to my house so we could take one car there and back, and as I drove we sang along to Adele and chattered about what we were looking forward to the most that night. As we arrived, our friends Kendice and Tracy greeted us and we walked inside the doors to the store, were handed our tickets that would dictate our place in line at midnight, and proceeded to the multiple activity tables around the store.
Lillie, Tracy and Kendice all were Ravenclaws, and I the lone Hufflepuff – who that night had an identity crisis and decided to don emerald green lipstick and a cozy green cardigan. Nonetheless, we drifted from table to table, house to house, collecting activity packets, coloring pages, buttons and stickers and bookmarks, and wrote on the Muggle Wall all before deciding to do as others had been doing and finding a place between shelves to spread out and chat as the night got underway. We quizzed one another on trivia, chatted over our favorite characters, discussed which books were our favorite, and ultimately what we looked forward to the most with Cursed Child. There was a costume contest being held and we saw many people donning robes or full-on character costumes; most notably a Gilderoy Lockhart crashing the party with some books of his own to “sign”.
After a snack break halfway through the night to caffeinate ourselves at the bookstore Starbucks, we perused the shelves some more before returning to our spot until the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. At 11:30 the store’s manager took her place on a table so that she could see high above the shelves and throughout the store, got on the store’s PA system, and began to organize us into a line by groups of numbers on our tickets. For the next half hour, my friends and I waited in the 150s group to be called to get in line and get our books. They announced the winners to the raffles during this time, and we only grew more anxious to get that coveted book into our hands.
By 12:07 we each had a copy of the book in hand and were eagerly flipping through the pages. We snapped some photos, hung out a little more, and then this magical night I had seemingly waited my whole life for… was over.
National Dance Day means celebratory tilts...
...and then there's me, who was wearing high heeled boots and hadn't taken a gymnastics class in years, despite having five years of experience under my belt....
Lillie and I drove home exhausted, and when I finally collapsed into bed around 2 AM I hardly had it in me to get past page 5.
The next morning, I made myself breakfast, a cup of coffee, and settled into my favorite reading chair in the living room. I didn’t move from that chair until I finished a few hours later.
Now, for my review… I won’t rate the book. I feel like as it’s written to be a stage play, there are certain things that need to be seen to be fully understood and appreciated, and because of that I can’t accurately give a rating. But my overall thoughts toward the book, the story, the plot, the caliber of writing, and the world building was…. Disappointment. This seems to be a popular verdict too, which disappoints me even more. It was like waiting for Christmas Day to come around and instead waking up Christmas morning to find out the holiday has been changed to where you can’t recognize it anymore. Something you once loved and admired for the feelings of joy and home they instilled was now foreign.
The characters were paltry versions of the beloved figures I grew up with. They were just odd, mismatched versions of themselves that were one-dimensional and poorly developed. Harry was a total asshole. Ginny only served to further the plot by reinforcing everything Harry said or did. Ron was dumber than a sack of rocks, who seemed to only serve the purpose of comedic relief, and Hermione was just arrogant and simply full of herself. I understand that nobody is going to be the same person they are at age 40 as they were at 14; but these characters held little to no accuracy to the beloved characters known around the world as brave, intelligent, fiercely protective and loyal to one another. Of the new generation of characters we met, Scorpius was probably my favorite. Although he felt like a regurgitated version of Hermione as we knew her to be, book smart and full of kindness, he still was the only character in the whole play with any real semblance of motivation or compassion. He actually had the ability to make connections with the other characters, whereas the rest simply coexisted. The villain of the story was quite dull and predictable from the moment we meet them.
The plot of the story itself felt all wrong and predictable. Each time there was a conflict, the solution presented itself almost immediately and was resolved. The characters were predictable and because they were so one-dimensional, the story really fell flat among them. Each time there was a glimmer of potential for the story to grow into something resembling logical or right, it slipped back into the rut of predictability. How many times can I repeat “predictable” in one review? Unoriginal is another word I would like to use, as the Terminator and The Butterfly Effect seem to heavily influence certain scenes. (SPOILER: When the trolley witch chases the boys off the Hogwarts Express and threatens them with her hands that turn into spikes there is something seriously off, and not at all reminiscent of the stories we all know and love. This just seems to continue for the entirety of the play.)
The world building was just nonexistent. I understand that as a stage play, there’s props and scenes and sets to do that work; but as someone with experience writing plays, I also know how important it is to set the scene and describe it before you continue. It’s just something fundamental I was taught and expected it to be a standard among other plays. I know it to be standard in the plays I’ve read or performed in. So this was disappointing, having the writer assume the reader just knew what everything was like, where things were and what the settings entailed. It led to a very dry world for the story to take place in as a result. If I'm being 100% honest, it just felt like poorly written fanfiction; especially because of how many fan theories seemed to come true in this story.
I could probably continue on why this over-hyped and disappointing read was so much of a let-down for me, but hopefully this play will redeem itself onstage where it was meant to be received. I have no doubt the actors are more than capable of breathing life and personality into this otherwise bland tale, and I sincerely hope it’s the case, because I do not want for this to be the note the Harry Potter books are ended on.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m so let down that I almost want to return my copy to the book store. It feels wrong having an incomplete collection of Potter books (seriously, I even have Tales of Beedle the Bard) but it’s heartbreakingly true. I just didn’t like the story, the characters, or the events that unfolded. I was generally unsatisfied and it pains me to say for once that I dislike a Harry Potter book for such reasons
If you’ve read Cursed Child, leave a comment or tweet me your reactions. I would like to know if you agree or disagree. And if you have yet to read the book, please don’t let my review dissuade you. Take it with a grain of salt, because after all it is meant to be seen performed on a stage. I have hopes we’ll be seeing this play performed in high school auditoriums and on off-Broadway tours in the coming months.