Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme created by GreenBeanTeenQueen, one of my favorite blogs. Surprise, surprise - it features books aimed at Tweens.
Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys were so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.
And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls' bathroom. But then the real trouble begins--someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself! (courtesy of Goodreads)
*This isn't so much of a review as a discussion of my thoughts. I'm assuming most everyone has read this series already, so I refer to connections with the later books. If you haven't read Harry Potter, beware of spoilers.
The Chamber of Secrets has always been my least favorite Harry Potter book. I think it started off on the wrong foot. Harry and Ron find the entrance to Platform 9 3/4 blocked, so they fly Ron's dad's car to Hogwarts. This always struck me as a monumentally stupid thing to do. As McGonagall suggests, they could have sent an owl explaining the situation or waited for Ron's parents to re-emerge from the platform. Instead, they blatantly and thoughtlessly broke all sorts of wizarding rules. I don't mind when Harry breaks rules for a good reason, which he typically does. But with me being a Hermione-like rule lover, such pointless disobedience is irritating. It doesn't work too well when I start the book out annoyed; my attitude subconsciously carries through to the end even if I know it shouldn't bother me. I realize this is a ridiculous reason to dislike the book, but sometimes logic can't overrule first opinions.
If nothing else, the car scene functions as a great literary device. We don't need to read the same train and school arrival scene over and over in all seven (well, six) books. This exposes us to a new part of Hogwarts (the whomping willow) and further illustrates Harry, Ron, Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Mrs. Weasley's characters. Rowling really does a good job in finding good ways to show annual events in a different light with each book. The Deathday party on Halloween also illustrates this.
I love how The Chamber Of Secrets introduces us to so many new elements of the wizarding world that become important later. We learn about parseltongue, see our first horcrux (even if we don't know what it is), polyjuice potion, house elves, the oblivate spell, Azkaban, and more. It's still a very child-like book. Not as much as Socercer/Philosopher's Stone, but you can tell that Harry is still just a boy and that it's aimed at younger readers. At least, Rowling worked out many of the kinks in her writing that were present in the first book.
A few interesting observations and questions that occurred to me while reading:
1. We see Malfoy with his father in Borgin & Burkes (p. 49-53). Even though Lucius Malfoy is curt and impatient with his son, you can tell that they have a strong relationship - Lucius easily could have sent a servant to take Draco school shopping; he promised to buy him a present. Throughout the books, Draco talks "my father this," "my mother that." His parents are always sending him things and keeping close tabs on his school life. They are not nice people, but Lucius and Narcissa love Draco in their own way. This love ends up saving Harry's life.
2. I wonder why Dumbledore hired Gilderoy Lockhart. The book says he was the only person willing to undertake the cursed DADA job. Was this actually true? Surely, Dumbledore knew that Gilderoy was a fraud. Was he really forced to hire him when no one else volunteered?
3. In general, Dumbledore confuses me a bit. How much did he know about the Chamber Of Secrets? Did he allow Harry to get in this situation? I think that the later books will help answer these questions, but I can't remember them right now. In general, I see Dumbledore as so much of a plotter that I'm inclined to believe he knew everything and purposely allowed Harry to risk his life. We know that he did this later on, but I wonder what his awareness of the situation was early on.
Question: Which of the Harry Potter books is your LEAST favorite?