Monday, March 10, 2014

Review | Harry, A History

Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli
Review by Alyssa
November 2008 by Pocket Books
356 pages
Amazon + Good Reads

"During the brief span of just one decade, hundreds of millions of perfectly ordinary people made history: they became the only ones who would remember what it was like when the Harry Potter saga was still unfinished. What is was like to seek out friends, families, online forums, fan fiction, and podcasts to get a fix between novels. When the potential death of a character was a hotter bet than the World Series. When the unfolding story of a boy wizard changed the way books are read for all time.
And a webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron, one of the most popular Harry Potter sites on the Internet, Melissa Anelli had a front row seat to it all. Whether it was helping Scholastic stop leaks and track down counterfeiters, hosting live PotterCasts at bookstores across the country, touring with the wizard rock band Harry and the Potters, or traveling to Edinburgh to interview J.K. Rowling personally, Melissa was at the center of the Harry Potter tornado, and nothing about her life would ever be the same.
The Harry Potter books are a triumph of the imagination that did far more than break sales records for all time. They restored the world's sense of wonder and took on a magical life of their own. Now the series has ended, but the story is not over. With remembrances from J.K. Rowling's editors, agents, publicists, fans and Rowling herself, Melissa Anelli takes us on a personal journey through every aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon--from his very first spell to his lasting impact on the way we live the dream."
-Good Reads
Let's get this over with: I did not like this book. The tag line made it seem as though Harry, A History would be an all encompassing, unbiased look at the Harry Potter phenomenon and the fans who lived with in it. However, this book was about one woman's experiences, which were anything but typical. In reality, this book should have been entitled Melissa, A History: The True Story of Harry Potter, Melissa Anelli, and Her Experiences Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon. 

I don't want it to seem as though I have sour grapes about what Melissa Anelli experienced and where Harry Potter took her. Anelli had multiple opportunities to meet J.K. Rowling, the cast of the Harry Potter movies, and an impressive slew of people who were intimately involved  with the entire production of both the book and movie franchises. Anelli was able to attend multiple fan con(vention)s, tour with Harry and the Potters, and even go on a podcast tour around the country. If I could swap spots with Anelli and experience even a fraction of what she did - would I? Absolutely. But did Harry, A History chronicle what several different types of fans experienced? No, not at all. And that is what made me so angry about this book. 

Boiled down, this book is simply an autobiographical account of Melissa Anelli's life after she took over the editorship of The Leaky Cauldron. But honestly, why should I care about what Anelli and her friends go to do/did during the tenure of the Harry Potter series? I'm still not entirely sure that I should care at all and mostly, I'm annoyed that I wasted my time in reading her book. 

Harry, A History has two saving graces that come in the form of chapters. In one chapter, Anelli recounts her interactions with Lauren Mallory - the woman who spear headed the anti-Potter movement on the basis that the series is evil because it teaches children a love of witchcraft. The second chapter discussions the "ship wars" or, the fierce feuds between the fans who shipped Harry/Hermione and those who shipped Ron/Hermione. (Shipping refers to an adamant desire to see two specific characters enter into a relationship.) Those were the only chapters that interested me and felt as though they belonged in a book about the fandom. Other than that? I could not care less about Melissa Anelli skipping out on work to fly to London. 

I saw a review on Good Reads that called Harry, A History, "a self indulgent mess." That basically sums up how I feel about this book. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless that person has an active interest in Melissa Anelli's experiences. This is not about the fandom as a whole, and it certainly does not represent the typical fan's experiences. This is the story of one woman's experiences, who was fortunate enough to be an almost insider. 


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