If you have not read Harry Potter 1-6, stop reading this right now. There are some spoilers in here.
Unless you've been living under a rock inside a cave at the bottom of an ocean, you know that the sixth book in the Harry Potter series was released a week ago. It sold more copies in the first 24 hours than any other book. You couldn't turn on the TV without seeing scores of 6 to 12 year olds besieging Barnes & Noble stores, threatening death if the book sold out before they got their hands on this 600+ page saga.
And despite the association with children who can barely read Avada Kedavra never mind saying it, I'm proud to say that I managed to snare a copy less than 12 hours after it was released and had the book finished within 24 hours.
I love Harry Potter.
My love of the underage wizard began by accident. My mother used to be a librarian for a Catholic elementary school. Because I got out of school before she did in June, she would put me to work in the library as her slave, doing all the work she despised. This meant that while she chatted with other teachers and helped them clean out their rooms, I'd stay in the library and process donated books. The parents in her school were very well-off and liked to outdo each other with donations. My job was to cover each book with clear plastic, glue in the little card slots in the back cover, stamp the name of the school on the title page, and make up card catalog entries with a synopsis of the story. Very boring work. Most books averaged 12 pages and contained nothing deeper than a lost kitty-cat. Even the books for "young adults" were pretty dull: teenager doesn't fit in, takes drugs, learns lesson after not-so-tragic accident. I had just finished high school--I had outgrown that tired cliche. The only plus-side was that I could watch TV while I did all this.
So one day I was processing these tedious wastes of trees when I got to a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. At first I thought that was a weird title: what kind of name is Harry Potter and what is a sorcerer's stone? All the same, I wasn't about to read it; I would just flip around and see what this stone was and off into the finished pile this book would go. Like most children's books, I figured this one must start off with what the goal was, so I turned to the first chapter. No mention of a sorcerer's stone here.... just a grisly double homicide. Interesting... I read a little farther... a scar? Why was this kid special? Why do these people have such strange names? What the hell is a Muggle? By this point, I was reading the book instead of skimming through, so I put it aside so I could plow through my work.
As luck would have it, a morning talk show was on. I almost changed the channel because no one interesting was a guest. But then a woman named JK Rowling was introduced. She started talking, but I was only half listening. Suddenly, I heard the name Harry Potter. She had my full attention. JK Rowling talked about how she wrote The Sorcerer's Stone... and The Chamber of Secrets... and The Prisoner of Azkaban. These characters grow up, she explained. They experience profound loss. People will die.
I was stunned. These are children's books, and people are going to die? There are three of these books? I was curious; I had to know.
By the end of that day, HP:SS was finished. I wanted more. That weekend, I got the first three books. By the end of the third book, I was hooked. Here was progression! Here was fantasy that made my Lord of the Rings look overdone! I had to know if this lovable kid with the odd name triumphed! And so I became a Harryaphile by accident.
When The Goblet of Fire came out, I had it by the end of the week. The threatened deaths had arrived. That's when I stopped seeing Harry Potter as a children's book. Those last few pages describing the rebirth of Voldemort and the death of Cedric... those pages scared me, the adult. And yet, the book did not affect me emotionally--I could care less about Cedric. The Order of the Phoenix took the darkness, the adult nature of the series even farther. JK Rowling killed Sirius Black horribly, in front of Harry, scarring both him and her readers. And yet, the series tightened it's grip on me even more.
And then there was The Half-Blood Prince. First off, I think parents who continue to let their 6 year olds read Harry Potter beyond the first 3 books are crazy. This has ceased to be for children. If I nearly lost it when JK Rowling struck down Dumbledore... And then there was the snogging! How I now love that word.
What I'm trying to convey about Harry Potter is that these books are rare gems in any literature. With the exception of the Little House and Anne of Green Gables books, I have never come across children's books that develop characters so fully to the point of making them grow up. I was 18 when I succumbed to Harry Potter, and yet this 11 year old orphan hooked me, made me want to watch him become the 16 year old teenager that watches everything he loves get destroyed. That darkness is also a lure that taps into a voyeuristic part of me that wants to know how much more this kid can take.
And so, until the 7th and final book is released, I'll continue my rereading of the books and watching of the movies. In every interview she gives, JK Rowling states more deaths are coming. So I'll wait and pray for the paper soul of Harry Potter, that he makes it out alive.
For those of you who love Harry Potter, here are a few nice sites with some interesting theories on where the series is going.
The Leaky Cauldron