So yesterday I was driving home after dinner out with my daughter. She’s in fourth grade and is reading Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban currently. She blazed through all the Percy Jackson books at the tail end of last school year and is a voracious reader.
Anyway, as we’re pulling into the driveway, I hear a gasp from the backseat. I had to look around to make sure I hadn’t accidentally hit something and then she said it.
“Daddy, Sirius Black was friends with Harry’s Dad! I can’t believe it!”
I read Azkaban probably back in 1999 or 2000. I starting reading the series when Chamber of Secrets was in hardback, so it was probably shortly after it was released. Suddenly, I was transported 14 years into the past. To a time when I first read the book or any other book where a plot detail startled me and derailed my train of thought.
I was jealous of my daughter. She experienced a wonderful thing — discovery. That moment when you learn something for the first time and it just bowls you over. Like the end of The Sixth Sense, but in a book. I wish I could go back and re-read J.K. Rowling’s fantastic HP series with fresh eyes and discover all the twists and turns for myself once again.
Ultimately, I think that’s what I look for in a book. What can the author do to surprise me? I’ve read so many things that it is a rare thing to discover something new and unexpected along the journey.
I think that’s also what I do as a writer — how to incorporate my own twists and turns into my plots to keep the readers engaged and guessing along the way.
As the night went on, my daughter talked to me about her suspicions as to who Sirius Black really is (She thinks he is disguised as the Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher). I just told her — you are going to have to keep reading — as I smirked, knowing the answer would shock and surprise her, just as it did me when I read years ago.