Status: Complete, Word Count: 18,100, Pairing: None
Read the Fic Here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/5121464
Author’s Summary: A young Harry learns the everyday power of words. He’s going to make the Dursleys happy by being “normal”. Then they’ll love him, just like they love Dudley! It’s a flawless plan… right?
Characterization: This fic has some of the best Dursley characterization I’ve ever read in a fic. Holy shit, it’s so good. I have never seen the Dursleys’ abuse of Harry handled this well in any story, including canon, ever. It’s subtle, it’s primarily emotional, it’s not crazy over-the-top insanity, and it’s just crushing to read about. I also think the writing does a lot to reflect the fact that Harry’s seven. Some of the grammar errors feel as though they’re intentional because Harry’s only seven so he doesn’t know how to form proper complex sentences yet, and speaking of Harry, holy shit he’s fucking amazing! Watching this sad, scared, confused little boy desperately trying to win his parents’ affection and approval is absolutely heartbreaking and I love it so much. It’s not often that a fic as short as 18k words can win my approval of its characterization so quickly, but….holy shit the characters are perfect.
Tone: The tone is also absolutely fantastic. It’s consistent all the way throughout, it has a good, solid balance of levity and drama, the few jokes sprinkled throughout all land, and the emotional abuse all lands really well, and is definitely sad to read about, without being so cartoonishly over-the-top that it kills the tone. What makes it work so well is that there are times that the Dursleys show Harry some grudging, partial approval, and in my opinion this makes their all around horribleness incredibly more effective because it almost feels like they’re stringing Harry along. This fic conveys this young child’s desperate need for approval so fucking well, and that basically carries the whole tone. Like, what do you want me to say? It’s character drama that has some fucking nuance and layers to it. Fuck yeah I’m into that!
Dialogue: Ok this is where the fic falters a bit. The dialogue is alright, but I think it’s probably a bit stiff at times. It definitely improves overtime, and it’s clear that the author found her footing over the course of writing this fic, but it’s definitely a bit awkward near the beginning and still is a bit stiff near the end. It’s fine, it’s serviceable, but it definitely could have been better.
Plot: Yeah the plot is great. It’s great for all of the reasons I mentioned above in the characterization and tone sections, because the plot services the tone and characters. It’s a short, fairly simple Harry deals with Dursley abuse story that is one of the most nuanced I’ve ever read. Like it’s legitimately amazing, and here I once again saying that this shit is as close to perfection as you can come!
Writing Mechanics and Other Stuff Too: Yeah the biggest issue with this fic is its grammar, punctuation, and the way it divides up chapters, because chapters this short are a bit…unfortunate. I’m willing to overlook them if the fic’s good, but they definitely detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. I don’t even know why, but they just don’t work for me, I’m not a fan. Alright, let’s move onto the actual issues. While I think some of the poor grammar is intentional because Harry’s a young child, there are also some legitimate mistakes that bring this fic down. Normally, a fic with this number of mistakes would be low great tier if it was lucky, but…yeah I like the rest of this fic so I’m willing to overlook it. The author was new to the game, and made great improvements overtime. It’s just a shame that she hasn’t gone back and edited these first chapters yet.
Overall: The Definition of Normal is a very strong opening to the series. This fic shines when exploring Harry’s dynamic with the Dursleys. The subtle and delicate way it portrays the ways Harry is emotionally abused and manipulated are equal parts heart breaking and excellent. In particular, there’s a scene where Harry mentions he’s Lactose Intolerant, and it’s revealed that Vernon poisoned him as punishment for taking extra food, and tricked him into thinking it was an allergy. While the concept and emotions of this fic are absolutely fantastic, I do have to dock a few points for writing that’s slightly flat, and a few typos here and there, but either way, this fic is still definitely worth the read.
Final Thoughts: If you like the Dursleys and want to see them written well, this is the fic for you. If you want a fic that explores how canon Harry would have been treated if the first Harry Potter book wasn’t written for children, this fic is for you. If you like characterization that’s some of the best out there, this fic is for you. I didn’t really like it the first time I read it, but I loved it the second time, and I’m very happy that this fic exists. It’s great. It’s really great.
Tier: Top Tier
Written on 05/20/2021