I've pointed out other people's opinions on what's wrong with the Harry Potter books (opinions I mostly agree with). But the reason why we're even talking about these books is that there's so much that's right about them. So let me point out a few of those (though they're quite obvious anyway).
- They're such a good read. There are so many naysayers who deplore Rowling's writing, and I kind of see where they're coming from. Literary, she's not, but she tells a good story and she entertains us and moves us and keeps us engaged till the end. That's pretty good in itself. For a work of popular fiction, I think the characters are pretty well-developed and interesting (let me not compare with other popular writers, in case some of you are fans!).
- And the books got a whole generation of kids interested in reading, and created a phenomenon that was mostly reserved for expensive toys (Apple or otherwise), not books! She makes us nerds look hip.
- The lead character is pretty much likeable. Even though he's so much of the hero (the Chosen One!), he's such a nice, regular boy. And his fierce loyalty to people who's been nice to him moves me every time.
- A whole array of interesting characters apart from the few main ones. So many people in the books seem like there could be entire books written about their adventures. Reading the books gives me the impression that Rowling had copious notes about all the characters and their back-stories, most of which didn't find its way into the books. Some of my favorites are Lupin, Tonks, Moody, McGonagall, Fred, George, Luna and Neville. I'd so like to know more of their stories, if only Rowling would write them!
- There is so much about redemption and second chances. Regulus Black, for example, shakes off the many years of conditioning that led him to become a Death Eater and does one of the most heroic things referenced in the books. Kreacher responds to kindness. And Snape. . .
- Related is the idea that you shouldn't judge someone too soon. One of the most moving moments of the series for me was finding out that Snape was good all along, that he had been Harry's greatest protector. And it's not so much a surprise. Harry and Ron had been so blinded by Snape's mannerism and his harsh treatment of them that they refused to consider the times he'd obviously saved them (when Quirrell was trying to kill Harry, or when they had been captured by whats-her-name-the-scary-Ministry-of-Magic-witch-who-takes-over-the-school). And I felt an overwhelming regret that Harry, who was always looking for family, never got to know this incredibly brave, incredibly selfless person who cared so much for him, just because he'd been blinded by his own prejudice. I can imagine an alternative story in which Harry gives Snape a chance and tries to know him, and they become friends before it's too late. (And Harry, of all people, you'd think would give people a second chance.)
- But most of all, I love that Rowling gave us a heroine like Hermione. Hermione who's smarter than everyone else, and as brave as anyone else. Who is interesting because she does things, not because she's beautiful or the hero's love interest (which is arguably why Rowling didn't make Harry and Hermione a couple, even though it makes so much sense to me that they would be). Hermione, a heroine with bushy hair and imperfect teeth who isn't afraid to stand up to her friends and tell them when they're being stupid (and who's almost always right). Hermione who cares passionately about people and creatures who are oppressed and discriminated against, be they house-elves or dragons. Hermione who wants to use her talents for good instead of glamor.