Series: Harry Potter #8
Published: July 31st 2016 by Little Brown UK
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a screenplay about Harry Potter’s son Albus. It takes place many years after the previous books, when Harry is a middle-aged man and his son is about to take his place at Hogwarts. Despite all of his adventures in defeating evil, Harry Potter doesn’t know how to be a parent. He tries to protect Albus and give him a good life, but he isn’t sure how to relate to his son and understand that he’s his own person, not just a smaller version of himself. Albus has a completely different experience at Hogwarts than his father. He’s a Slytherin, not a Gryffindor. He’s a bit of a loner, and his only close friend is Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius. He doesn’t feel the same sense of homecoming that Harry felt at Hogwarts, and he feels as if he isn’t living up to people’s expectations. When Albus hears of a chance to right an old wrong, he and Scorpius set off on a time travel adventure together.
It’s rare that I preorder a book, but I made an exception for Cursed Child. Harry Potter was a major part of my childhood, and I got hooked on it when some well-meaning adult told me that I’d go to hell for reading it. (Note to parents/adults: If you want your children to stay away from a book, telling them that it’s evil will likely encourage them to do the opposite.) Cursed Child was a chance for a nostalgia trip, but I went in with low expectations, convinced that this was just another excuse for Rowling to milk the proverbial cash cow.
My low expectations were what saved my reading experience, because I did as a whole enjoy Cursed Child. But there’s a caveat. Cursed Child reads like Harry Potter fanfiction, not another installment in the series. There are a bunch of backtracks and lorelols that diverge from what Rowling had already established. For example, in the Harry Potter books, time travel was more fatalistic–you don’t have to worry about changing the past, because if you did change the past it was already factored into the present timeline. Case in point: Harry casting the Patronus that saved his other self from the Dementors. But in Cursed Child, time travel is a little more Dr. Who, and it’s possible to make your loved ones unborn by accident. But the time travel does give us a chance to reunite with some of our favorite dead characters.
Another example of this divergence from the original Harry Potter canon has to do with the adult characters’ professions. Rowling had established professions for Ron, Harry, and Hermione, but then backtracked in the play. Ron now owns a joke shop, which is cool and all, but not his original career path.
But the fanfiction feeling isn’t all bad. My favorite part of the book was the serious bromance between Albus and Scorpius. It’s a not-so-subtle nod to all of the fanfics that shipped Harry and Draco years ago, and it’s absolutely adorable. (I also read the whole Harry needs to let go of his past as an ironic metaphor for Rowling’s need to move on from the series, but that’s a different story…)
Even though Cursed Child was a mixed bag, I found it to be a pleasant experience. If you’re a diehard fan, you’ll find that the mixture of bromance and daddy issues aren’t the kind of future you’d imagine. You’ll get even more upset at a certain portrayal of He Who Must Not Be Named. But if you have a sense of humor about it and don’t take it too seriously, Cursed Child is a romp down memory lane. At only a couple hundred pages, it’s worth taking the risk.