(original review, 1999)
One of the main things that Harry Potter has taught me is that people who dismiss the series out of hand and people who laud it as the best thing since sliced bread are equally annoying. People who dismiss it tend to be those who are overly eager to demonstrate how terribly mature they are, and end up proving the very opposite. And I can't help thinking that people who laud it as literally the best thing ever do so because they've never read anything else or any of the other hundreds of franchises that essentially tell the same (rather tired) story, often in a more inventive way. That or they're anglophile Americans who are swept along with the quaint Britishness of the series. Essentially, they're not that good children's books. The fact that they stretch a pretty thin, derivative story over seven installments is made up for by the novel setting and some really fun characters and concepts. I'm glad they exist, but have always been slightly mystified by the obsessives (though to each their own, I suppose). But all literature is derivative; the Greeks did it all long ago and probably filched it from aural tradition. The key is how well do you it and can you capture the imagination of the reader.
One of my gripes with the books is their length. The author could have slashed the page length by half and the story wouldn't have changed at all. Maybe as she became famous after the second book the editors stopped trying to improve the content. I felt like the HP books were too much, because there was so much fluff around the main story, and also not enough because the main story felt a bit squeezed by the fluff. My impression is that the HP books should have been split into two series, one that deals with the dark lord, and a second one that deals specifically with the overarching lore, subplots, world-building, etc.
For the record, my opinion is not exactly mainstream, I read the HP books when I was much older than a teenager and didn't have to wait for them to be released. So I do understand if you suddenly have to urge to start throwing things at me. :)