According to Amazon’s data, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reigns supreme as the most often gifted book of 2016. It’s both the most wished for and the bestselling book of the year. It stands to reason that many, many people will purchase Cursed Child for casual Harry Potter fans in their lives, despite that being a grave mistake.
Here’s the thing: Cursed Child is not a good book. It’s arguably not even a book by the classic definition. It was deceptively advertised as the “eighth Harry Potter story,” but it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling, and the only descriptions it features are not sumptuous, rich scenes that transport you to straight to Hogwarts, but rather, stage directions like this:
“The trolley witch’s hands transfigure into very sharp spikes. She picks up a pumpkin pasty. She throws it like a grenade. It explodes.”
Cursed Child only becomes more perplexing and disturbing from there. Harry’s son makes out with Hermione, Draco gets uncharacteristically excited about farmers’ markets, Voldemort has a secret love child, Draco’s sons utter lines like “Squeak. My geek-ness is a-quivering,” Ron is a complete buffoon, and the story violates the rules that the Harry Potter canon had already painstakingly set up. Even if the kid you gift it to doesn’t care about how Fidelius charms work, they will care that this play doesn’t read like any Harry Potter story they’ve encountered before.
Amazon is filled with hilarious one-star reviews for Cursed Child — in a higher percentage than its two and three star reviews — which showcase the widespread feeling of grief that spread among fans after the book was released.
“I don’t believe in bad books,” one reviewer said. “But… this is a bad book. Even on its own, it would be a brutal read; as part of the HP universe, it’s a bitter disappointment.”
Another wrote, “First and foremost, I was well aware that this was a play, not a novel; but even by those standards this is a disgrace. If it was possible I would give 0 stars…I have read awful, poorly written, fanfiction that was lightyears better than this tragedy of a story (even calling it that seems overly kind)….I will rightly say that I had a massive nerd freak-out, and actually tore the book to pieces to prevent myself from re-reading it, as I knew I would as a sadistic form of torture.”
Merlin, you don’t want to Crucio the poor recipient of your gift.
If you want to buy a holiday gift for the Potter-lover in your life, there’s a plethora of torture-free options. After all, Harry Potter isn’t just the Boy Who Lived — it’s second only to Star Wars as the franchise that keeps on giving to capitalism.
You could buy them a wand, or a house scarf, or a ticket to the Harry Potter World theme park. You could buy them the screenplay to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which added to the Potterverse instead of destroying it. There’s Harry Potter quill eyeliner for an older teen, or Harry Potter condoms. You could even print out and bind some of the millions of offerings of Harry Potter fan fiction that is better than Cursed Child.
For Merlin’s sake, don’t give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a gift. If you do and the kid in question hexes you, don’t say you weren’t warned.