Stephen King tackles the Harry Potter franchise in this lengthy edition of his Entertainment Weekly column. It isn’t so much a review, which would be rather pointless as King has frequently cited his love of the series, but a reflection on the series as a whole and how it impacted children and literature as a whole.
Speaking of reviews, the author does note how the book reviewers fell short, pointing out that they didn’t really stop to appreciate the book since they were so rushed for time. King notes that reviewers have 4 days to read a 750 page book and then write an 1,100 word review on it, so they have to rush through it in order to meet the deadline. That sounds like an interesting challenge. I’ll have to try that myself when I get to King’s longer works.
In King’s opinion, the blogs haven’t fared much better as they are more concerned with plot points and who’s spoiling them. Beyond that, he implies that they are stating the obvious.
The author goes on to say that Rowling’s books got kids reading at a time when literary bigwigs were saying that reading was dead and that kids are more concerned with their Xboxes and their Youtubes and their hoola hoops.
Meanwhile, kids were getting into the work of one R.L. Stine. King gives credit where it’s due, saying that it was most likely Stine’s success that led to Scholastic publishing the Potter books, but he makes a point to say that Stine’s writing is adequate at best. I’m sure that if I went back and tried to read Night of the Living Dummy 17, I wouldn’t be impressed; but I have fond memories of picking those books up, getting home and tearing through them in one sitting. Good times. King also alludes to the title bestowed upon Stine as “the Stephen King of literature”.
Not only did the Potter books get kids to read, but it opened their imaginations. The author relates a story where he sees a kid playing, using a stick as a magic wand. He notes that that sort of behavior in adults would warrant psychiatric help, but with kids it’s accepted, if not encouraged.
Rowling’s books proved that kids are perfectly willing to read if there is something worth reading, but where Rowling differs from Stine is that Rowling’s writing matured with her audience. As the kids who started reading Harry Potter grew into adults, the books grew to cater to their more adult tastes. This mirrors the fact that the characters themselves go from kids to young adults, so it’s all very meta.
All in all, the master of horror isn’t worried. As King himself said when he quoted The Who, the kids are alright and reading isn’t going anywhere.