Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ode to Harry Potter

In case you're living under a rock, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 comes out this Friday. And I just realized that I've only ONCE written about Harry Potter on this blog. And that post isn't even really about Harry Potter. It's more of a review of the sixth movie.

That's simply not enough, so this week both of my posts are devoted to the miraculous thing that is Harry Potter.

When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I remember all of my friends were reading Harry Potter. They kept talking about how awesome the books were and kept trying to convince me to read them. But I held out for the longest time. I enjoyed reading Star Wars books, and I still had a ton of them to get through. I didn't need time for their "little kid" books.

However, in the seventh grade (before Christmas) I was in Walmart, and I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for sale in paperback. I figured it wouldn't hurt to buy it and give it a chance, so I bought it and Chamber of Secrets (which was still in hardback).

I loved Star Wars books. I loved reading. By this point in my life, I had read every book ever written by Madeleine L'Engle and over half of the published Star Wars books (including the Thrawn Trilogy and the X-Wing series). But NOTHING had ever gripped me the way Harry Potter did. No other book had ever introduced me to a character I knew nothing about (because before this point, I knew absolutely nothing about who Harry Potter was) and made me love him. No other book ever made me immediately go out and buy the 3rd book (which had just come out in hardback).

And of course the 3rd book was phenomenal. To this day, it is still my favorite book.

Half of what was so fantastic about Harry Potter was that everyone was reading it. For once, I wasn't reading a book by myself, with no one to talk to about the events I found exciting and thrilling. When I read that first Harry Potter book it was like I became a member of a club that almost every other kid was a part of. I could walk up to almost anyone and ask them what they thought about the whole Sirius Black as Harry godfather's thing and they would immediately know what I was talking about and have an opinion.

Harry Potter wasn't just a book. It was a ticket--a ticket to friends, conversations, and not being that weird girl in the back of the room who read Star Wars books. Harry Potter became the glue that held an entire generation together.

Right before the fourth book came out, my parents had been listening too much to their friends at church. The word on the streets at church was that Harry Potter was evil and was going to lead me down dark demonic paths. I remember my parents pulling my aside, into their room, and saying "We don't think you should read Harry Potter anymore."

I cried.

I had to read the next Harry Potter book. I had to know what was going to happen to Harry. But more importantly, for once I wanted to be able to talk with everyone else. For once, everyone else in my grade and age group was excited about something I was excited about, and I couldn't let me parents take that away from me.

Luckily, my parents aren't lemmings, and when I explained to them that Harry Potter is not evil (but in fact a good versus evil fight) and that if Harry Potter was indeed evil then so was the Wheel of Time, they allowed me to read the next book.

But my parents still didn't get it. My mom refused to let me reserve a copy of the 5th book before it came out, because she had never had to reserve a copy of a book before and didn't see how it would be necessary. When the 5th book came out, my brother drove me and my sister to three different bookstores looking for it. We finally found it at a mall Waldenbooks that hadn't had a midnight release.

Let me restate that for a minute to let the depth of it sink into your minds. "MY BROTHER drove me and my sister...." Perhaps I should add "VOLUNTARILY". Harry Potter didn't just bring my friends together. It brought the kids in my family together. That's a big deal. I read Harry Potter first. My little sister started reading them right before the fourth came out. My brother got into the game sometime between the fourth and fifth book, even though that was the time when he transitioned from high school to college. And my older sister started reading them shortly after that, even though she was like a senior in college.

My older siblings and I have absolutely nothing in common. We never really talked, and generally just avoided each other. But Harry Potter was suddenly something we could all talk about it. It was something we all enjoyed. It was something we all loved.

Sometimes I think my parents still don't get it, but they don't have to. They're not the Harry Potter generation, we are.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling. I don't think I can express enough what your books meant to me, to my friends, and to my family. Because Harry Potter is not just a series of books. It's the story of a generation.

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