Rating: 2.5 Stars
Format: Audible Audiobook
Like many a millenial, I grew up reading and watching Harry Potter. And like many, my relationship to those original texts has become more complicated over the years, for reasons I won’t get into here.
Nevertheless, when I saw that Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the movies, had written a memoir, I knew I was going to read it. Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard promised a bit of insight into the filming of the movies that formed so much of my youth, and I’ve always sort of liked Tom Felton without knowing much about him at all.
The book does indeed have plenty of stories from the set of Potter and from Felton’s life. The writing, though, didn’t wow me. Not every celebrity memoir is, or is intended to be, a great feat of literary accomplishment, and that’s fine. In these pages, we get to know Tom Felton quite well. He is open, earnest, and charming. But the book itself is, if I’m honest, a bit of a hodge podgey mess.
He starts with some stories about his childhood, then goes into talking about what it was like being a child actor. This includes a series of not-very-interesting chapters detailing his experiences with various members of the Harry Potter cast. This is all well and good, and is probably what many fans want from such a memoir, but for me there was something missing in these stories.
Towards the end, Felton takes a sharp dive into talking about substance use and mental health challenges he’s experienced as an adult. It’s admirable to want to talk openly about mental health, but this is a bit tossed in at the end and therefore not handled with the most delicacy or depth. I felt shocked when I saw we had 15 minutes left in the audiobook and we were talking about going to rehab. Not a lot of time to unpack such a big experience, and after so much time spent with cheery little stories.
To me, this felt like it was trying to be two books at once — the fun, light memoir from the Harry Potter set, and the autobiography of a child star who realized he needed more normalcy in his life. They could have been woven together, but here it feels that they… aren’t. I did appreciate the attempt to normalize mental health challenges at the end of the book but it felt quite tossed in and rushed at the last minute, like looking for a “big meaning” with which to end the book.
Felton performs the book beautifully on audio, and I do think diehard Draco fans will really enjoy the book. There are a lot of stories from the set of the Potter films, which is of course what most fans will go into the book hoping for. But for me, this didn’t quite deliver as a book in and of itself.
This post originally went up on our Medium publication.