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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The magic of Harry Potter

When I was thirteen, I thought I was the height of cool.

I was in the eighth grade, which meant a lot of things. I had my own phone in my bedroom which was useful for gossiping with my friends and making prank phone calls during slumber parties. I was allowed to be home alone sometimes, and I had my own house key. I went to my first boy-girl party when I was thirteen. I thought about music and movies, and watched MTV. I wore a bra. I was a teenager, and it was pretty freakin’ sweet.

That year I was taking pre-algebra. My teacher, a portly man with glasses and a penchant for wandering off the topic of linear equations to discuss the Civil War, was married to my elementary school librarian. Mrs. Mentch loved me in elementary school, and upon learning I was in her husband’s class she would send an occasional message for me through him.

“Tell Danielle hello,” was common. “Congratulate Danielle on her excellent test score,” never came. (Math was never my strong subject.)

“Ask Danielle if she has read this book yet!” was pretty familiar, and I admittedly didn't always make a point to follow her recommendations. After all, she was the librarian at my elementary school, surely her book recommendations were below me in all my teenage glory.

“Tell Danielle she needs to read Harry Potter!” Well, I most certainly was not about to do that. It was a kids’ book. I had heard about the book plenty on television and knew it was gaining in popularity among children. I was not a child. I was a teenager. Teenagers don’t read kids’ books for pleasure.

However, I one day found myself in possession of a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read that book straight through in a couple hours. The rest, as they say, is history, as I spent the next 11 years of my life obsessing with the rest of America over J.K. Rowling’s fascinating “Potterverse.” Apparently plenty of other thirteen year olds were reading for pleasure (gasp!), because I was hard pressed to find somebody who had not fallen in love with the young hero and his magical world.

Harry Potter fans spread a wide range of age groups, but many of the original fans, those who started reading the books from the start of their rising popularity, are in or near their twenties. Interest in the so-called children’s books hasn’t faded with time, however; it has only grown stronger, gathering more and more fans across the world. On the eve of the release of the final movie installments in a series that has spawned a cultural phenomenon, a generation of fans will flock to theaters this weekend to witness what will undoubtedly be the start of a bittersweet end to an era.

It pains me more than I can express in words to say that my schedule does not permit me to be among the most dedicated Harry Potter fans for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Trust me, this has left me quite depressed--I've been waiting for this moment ever since that day over 11 years ago that I picked up the first Harry Potter book.

And nevermind that I’m now a 24-year-old college graduate with a full-time job and a car payment; my spectacular Platform 9 ¾ sign still hangs on my bedroom wall, and I’ve even been spotted wearing a lookalike track jacket like the ones worn in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The thing is, for those of us who really got into the books (and movies!) back then, Harry Potter is more than just a well-written fantasy series. We literally grew up with the cast of characters, watching them go through school, fall in and out of love, and, you know, fight off the most evil wizard of all time.

The characters are written so well, so true-to-life, that it was so easy for this generation of fans to feel so deeply connected. Unlike other popular youth literature (I'm looking at you, Twilight!), there is so much depth to everything--like how the hero and villain share parental abandonment issues, the underlying racial tensions that form the basis for the entire magical war, and the blatant religious symbolism that really comes to a head in Deathly Hallows. All of these issues are wrapped up in sparkly, magical packaging full of delightful treats such as butterbeer and sugar quills and sports played on flying broomsticks.

Before I spoil the whole series for the 3 or so people left on Earth who have not read the books or seen the movies, I just want to urge everybody to check them out. Really, the magic of the whole series is how Rowling was able to combine the surface-level entertainment of the wizardry and the traditional good vs. evil battle with topical and important political, psychological and philosophical issues. There is truly something for everybody--just ask my grandmother's cousin who is just as excited as I am for the movie!

The Harry Potter novels are more than just kids' books. Maybe I didn't realize that when I was 13, but I sure do now.


And for those of you seasoned Harry Potter fans, how super pumped are you for Part I of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Are you going to see the movie at midnight? Let me know what you think--I'll be posting my thoughts after I see the movie on Friday and I'd love to post your input too!

Here is a review by Entertainment Editor Mark Meszoros.

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it--or want to see it again for the 700th time before you see the movie!




--Danielle Capriato
DCapriato@News-Herald.com

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1 Comments:

Anonymous rebecca said...

Danielle, I was at the advance screening on Tuesday.....you're going to LOVE it!

November 18, 2010 at 12:52 PM 

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