In this time of unease and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself craving cute, comforting, escapist reads. For me, that means sweet romantic comedies and a trip on the Hogwarts Express!
RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston
First Read: August 2019
I first read RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE when it came out last summer, fully expecting to love it as much as everyone else. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I remember enjoying it but I thought it was much too long and could’ve benefited from some structural changes. Normally, when a book is incredibly hyped like in the case of McQuiston’s debut, I find that my expectations are so high that I never end up liking the book as much as I think/hope I will. For that reason, and because I wanted to read a sweet and easy romance, I decided to re-read RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE.
The second time around was definitely much more enjoyable! The story is really about two young men struggling with their sexuality while living in the public eye and having to make decisions about their future while keeping issues of image and family legacy in mind. I found myself connecting and empathizing with main character Alex on a much deeper level, and with the American presidential debates happening while Prince Harry and Meghan are distancing themselves from the royal family, McQuiston’s story definitely felt more timely in my second read. I still think a solid 100 pages or so could have been cut out; however, given that I knew to expect a slower pace this time around, I had less of a problem with it. All in all, I’m really glad I got to re-read this novel, and I’m grateful that McQuiston has penned such a glorious m/m romance!
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling
First Read: 2009-ish
I discovered Harry Potter in fifth grade, and as a young girl I re-read the series at least once a year, but I haven’t opened my torn, yellowing copies in about five years. Any trip to Hogwarts, be it through book or film, is a comfort, and certainly, now, a much-needed escape. Re-reading the books reminds me just how much better than the movies they are, with my favorite bits being the sarcastic humor the trio has, especially Harry. Now that I’m older and read with a more critical eye, I’ve noticed a lot that my eleven year-old self probably wouldn’t have, like how my Americanized text changes “football” to “soccer.” I question a lot more of the Wizarding World too, like how it interacts with religion, given that Hogwarts breaks for Christmas and Easter holidays rather than a winter and spring recess.
Regardless of the bounty of things I noticed for the first time, I still love the familiar feeling that opening this book gave me, akin to the feeling of returning home after a long vacation. Though the beginning of the series is not my favorite–I’m more keen on the fifth and sixth books that chronicle Harry’s angsty teenage years as his life grows increasingly darker–I still love the beginning of Harry’s story, his introduction to Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and the Wizarding World in general. This series is so nostalgic for me, and I can’t wait to keep reading!