I'm not going to attempt to summarize this. I don't need to. If you've been alive in the past seventeen years, you know about the Harry Potter series. In some ways, it's like a natural disaster. You can remember exactly where you were when you first learned about it.
From my earliest years, I knew there was something special about this Harry kid. I remember seeing a cardboard cutout of Dumbledore in my private school's library to celebrate the release of The Half-Blood Prince. Even my mom read the books, and Mom never read anything that wasn't a classic! I'd seen a handful of the movies with my friends and thought they were just swell, but... well... reading? Do I have to?
Apparently, I did. In 2007 (I would've been nine at the time), with the release of the final book, my dear, wise mother, who knew I liked fantasy before I did, decided that my big sister and I had to read the series. This was easier said than done; because of the seventh book's wild success, everyone and his brother had requested the books from the library, and we didn't own any copies. So I waited patiently, because I very much doubted I would like these books.
I am so very glad that nine-year-old Allison was wrong. At last our copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone arrived at the library. It was a first edition copy: one of the squat, lumpy paperbacks with squished type, hardly the sort of thing I had much patience reading. But Mom insisted, so big sister and I started reading, switching off each time we finished a chapter.
Through those crisp yellow pages, a new world opened before me: a world of beauty and fear, loss and new love. And, above all, magic. Kids only a few years older than myself learned strange new powers and had adventures. Despite their young age-- and I've always been very conscious of that-- they fought in the great battle against evil, and they won. They did what adults couldn't do. A handful of ordinary kids, just like me, saved the world.
Even as my big sister lost interest, I tore through those tales of innocent adventure. They spoke to something mysterious in my heart that I had never known before. And I remember those long, slow days of the summer after my eleventh birthday, when I anxiously checked the mailbox, waiting to see the telltale words in angled handwriting, that great call to adventure: Miss A. Ruvidich, The Pale Pink Bedroom, The Countryside, North Carolina. And I remember how it broke my heart when that letter never came.
Now that I'm a little older and a little wiser, I can see the series more clearly, and I can theorize why I loved it, and why others don't. Dear, dear Harry Potter is something of a blank slate, lacking a forceful personality. And I postulate that, because of this, the series isn't about Harry Potter. It's about the reader. His lack of a defined personality allows the reader to fill his shoes, and suddenly, they are the special one. They have been chosen to save all that they hold dear, and you know what? Somehow, they'll succeed.
Can you see how that changed an uncertain little girl who had just left private school, the only way of life she'd ever known, for a great, vast new uncertainty? When I first read those books, I was Harry Potter.
I still haven't stopped counting the years. If that letter had come for me in the sleepy summer after my eleventh birthday, I'd be a sixth year now, studying potions and charms and defense against the dark arts. Somewhere along the way, I traded those for calculus, psychology, and writing. And sometimes I wonder if, in the end, it was a worthy trade.
I loved the Harry Potter series because it changed the life of a shy, gawky girl who didn't know where her path led anymore but who still had a great love of adventure and impossibilities. And I love it still because, when I read it, it reminds me of how little she's changed.
Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite books posts to be entered in the favorite books giveaway! Entries are capped at one per post, but feel free to comment more. As for the hint for tomorrow's book: what do you get when you cross the music of the Renaissance with the scientific observation of dragons?