The Book Ruiner
This post contains Harry Potter spoilers. Stop reading now if you don’t want the series ruined.
So we started Harry Potter Six despite saying three months ago that we weren’t ready at all. Despite saying the same thing just a few hours before I read them the first page. But the reality is that what I was trying to keep them from experiencing was the thrill that Voldemort takes in killing, and the ChickieNob noted at the end of Book Five that Bellatrix seemed to really enjoy killing Sirius. I coupled that realization with the fact that they barely flinched over Sirius’s death. They cried; they were sad, but they weren’t scared. And I’m okay with introducing them to the concept of sad. Dealing with a favourite character’s death, talking out how you feel about that death, is a safe way to process the feelings of death without actually having to lose a real person. So… I’m all for encountering sad in a safe space.
Then Josh commented that he thought they were ready. His fear is that the longer we wait, the more chance the books will be ruined as other kids read them and talk about them.
Here is the thing. That has already happened. And when it did, I lied.
[I promised I would never lie to my kids, and then I lied lied lied.]
In first grade, the ChickieNob came home from school upset and asked if she could speak to me alone. And when we got upstairs, she told me that a boy had told her the end of Book Six just to be mean. And she wanted to know if it was true; did Snape murder Dumbledore?
She was devastated over the idea that (1) Dumbledore would be killed and (2) that this boy had taken away something from her that she held precious — letting the story unfold as it was supposed to unfold.
So I told her that the child was cruel and had gotten it completely wrong which is to be expected when it comes to six-year-olds watching movies way above their head.
She was relieved, and has gone through the rest of the series calmly, sometimes asking reassurance that Dumbledore would be in Book Seven. And I’m not lying when I tell her that he’s in Book Seven. And I didn’t exactly lie when I told her that the boy was wrong. I mean, he was wrong in the sense that it wasn’t murder. That it was something much more nuanced than that. But ChickieNob thinks that Dumbledore lives. So… it’s a lie.
And it eats away at me now that we are ensconced in Book Six.
I told them that I have told one lie, and I would like to preemptively ask for forgiveness. I lied for a good reason, which doesn’t really excuse it. But I didn’t want the books ruined for her.
And more to the point, she has been so careful not to pass the story along to her brother. He still doesn’t know why we went upstairs that day; why she was so upset.
There are times when we accidentally ruin a story for someone else. We say something not realizing the person hasn’t read the story or isn’t at the same part. It happens. And while it sucks, it doesn’t bother me. The person meant no harm.
But this kid ruined the end of the book on purpose. He told her that he was going to tell her everything and ruin it for her, and when she told him to stop, he kept talking. And that is a literary violation. I mean, it sort of sounds funny when I write about it; torturing someone by telling them important book endings. But in the moment, when it’s happening to you? It feels as if someone has crept into your bedroom and stolen one of your prized possessions. She has been holding this series in her heart for years; it is so important to her. To take away allowing the twists to unfold in due time is a crappy thing to do.
Hopefully she will forgive me when we get to the end of the book. When I told her that I once told her a lie, she asked me again if Dumbledore was alive in Book Seven. I told her he was, and then I repeated that when I told the lie, I did so to protect the books. I offered to tell her the lie, to confess on the spot, and maybe she knows what it was already, because she told me that she’d rather be angry with me when the truth comes out than learn the truth now.
I’m not sure which is worse: being a liar, even if it is to save a book, or being a book ruiner.