Friday morning at about 2:30 a.m. marks the end of my adolescence. That’s when the opening night of the last movie based on the last book of the Harry Potter series ends.
This may sound like a decisive end, but for a 22-year-old who has been reading the books and watching the movies for more than half of her life, the end of Harry Potter is basically the end of being a kid. I mean, I’ve been reading them since before I was old enough to go to Hogwarts.
I bought my first Harry Potter book at a Scholastic book fair in 1999 when I was 10. I still have that dog-eared book, my fifth grade signature signed in gel pen on the inside of the front cover.
I should preface this admission with a little side note: I am a reasonably normal person who just happened to grow up in the midst of the Harry Potter craze.
Now, I have a confession to make: I think I might kind of be slightly obsessed with Harry Potter.
I know I’m addicted to books; that has always been obvious. I was the girl who got grounded from reading. Eventually, it led to my “fun” minor of English literature in college.
But HP, as I affectionately refer to Harry Potter, is something entirely different. I’ve read the whole 4,000-plus-page series at least four times. Maybe more. (Probably more.)
I always insisted we go to get the books at midnight, the night each was released. This wouldn’t be such a big deal except my family spent every summer weekend up at our lake cabin at Pend Oreille Lake, Idaho, a good 45-minute drive away from the nearest Walmart.
My cousins and I pleaded with our parents to take us into town and I’m pretty sure my mom was the one who drove us each time. So the five or six of us would pile into the car, flashlights in hand. The ride there was usually spent discussing what would happen in the book, which characters would die and if Vold — I mean, You-Know-Who — would ever be defeated. The only sound on the trip back was the turning of pages.
I am proud, or slightly embarrassed, to say that I read the last four books — the longest four of the series — within 24 hours of its release. The last one I did in less than 16 hours. (No, I didn’t really sleep.)
If my childhood was spent reading HP, it was also spent watching HP. Although, I still reserve the right to say that the books are better and the movies cut too many things out.
The first movie came to theaters the year I would have been eligible to attend Hogwarts (that’s age 11, for those not familiar). I’ve gone to the midnight opening showings a number of times.
But J.K. Rowling created more than just a large movie and book franchise that released products throughout my childhood; Harry Potter and I grew up together.
Each book and movie pushed Harry’s life in a darker, more complex direction. As I grew older, Harry’s problems and challenges grew more mature. The lighthearted tone of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” seems a far cry away from the hopelessness and uncertainty that pervades much of “The Deathly Hallows.” With each book, HP still remained relevant to me. If Harry’s story hadn’t grown with him, I doubt his original fans would have stayed so devout.
These stories taught me the value of friendship, courage, and perseverance. It taught me that there isn’t a line between black and white; nearly everyone and everything has shades of gray. And it reminded me, even as I got older, that there’s something magical about imagination.
For my generation, Harry Potter and his friends helped define our formative years. We read the books, we watched the movies and some of us even played wizard and witches at recess. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, better known as Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, are the same age as me. And as they finally “graduate” from Hogwarts, it seems like I must too.
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