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Book Review: Harry, A History by Melissa Annelli (4/5)

28 Jul

I had some serious emotional investment in this book. My husband admonished me about it a few times because I’d come in from my car crying because I had childhood flashbacks to midnight book releases and listening to Harry and the Potters. So this might be a biased review, but it’s my review and it’s one from a self-proclaimed Potterhead. You have been warned.

Book cover via

Book cover via

Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I am so proud to be part of the Potter generation and to have learned my moral lessons from Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was someone who stayed up late reading when a book came out and went to get it at midnight or at least 6 AM the next morning (when it went on sale at Meijer and my mom was awake). So I had a lot of similar reactions to the ones Melissa shared. Yes, she’s almost a decade older than me so her experiences are going to be a bit different, but I remember the logistics of getting book seven and wanting to shut out EVERYONE until I had read it. It brought back memories, really good memories, and I related to Melissa’s story as well as the facts about the book.

Melissa did a good job of recreating the people she met through Potter. I thought she kept the number of people involved to a good number. I could remember all of them when they showed up again. I loved her interactions with Jo. Those were really special to me as a fan and writer. She always seemed to down to earth yet Melissa was freaking out as much as I would be. I always wondered what you had to do to meet Jo Rowling and I guess the answer is run the biggest fan site for her books.


I started reading Potter when the third book came out, a bit before Melissa. Granted, I was in elementary school, not college when I started. I got the first three books for Christmas from my parents and they’re still in the box set I got them in. Like her, I was a bit skeptical at first, but I got sucked in by book two. It’s hard not to. I liked that she was an adult fan of a YA series because Potter made it OK to be a fan of YA books past age 17 and Melissa represented this well. I liked that she wasn’t ‘into it before everyone else was’ because those people are annoying. She was genuine and excited and I related to her.

Melissa Anneli Image via

Melissa Anelli
Image via

I loved the section about Wizard Rock. I remember the first time I heard Save Ginny Weasley (truth: I turned it on just now) and I still know all the lyrics to the chorus. It was such a happy and upbeat section of the book that had me (yes) crying in my car from nostalgia. So much fun.

There wasn’t a part of the book I particularly disliked, but I will say the beginning had me skeptical. I was afraid it would be too much of a memoir and not enough of a historical account of the book. I thought Anelli did a good job of striking a balance between the two, but the beginning could have dealt with a little more fact.

My audiobook was narrated by Renee Raudman. I thought she did a good job with the story, which was a bit flat. There wasn’t a lot of time for her to explore a lot of characters or high-stress situations so it wasn’t much to work with.

Fans can get a bad rep. I’m a Potterhead and former fanfiction writer and I try to not hide that. I’m not ashamed to say I’m passionate about something the way Melissa is. There has been an acceptance of Fan Culture in the last few years that I’ve really appreciated. Fans are not just the people in CosPlay at Comic-Con (though a lot of them are there) but also everyday people who have other hobbies as well but enjoy a good story. I felt Anneli’s story addressed that well.

Writer’s Takeaway: Melissa Anelli has a passion. And she wrote about it. I love that. I love when I can feel an author’s passion in the pages and hear it in the words and Anelli did that. It’s not one long scream like you might get from some fangirls when asked about their favorite ship or the time they met Dan Radcliffe. She was put together and well spoken and every bit the reporter she was educated to be. Her passion shone.

Great book for a Potterhead to read between re-reads. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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