If you ask nearly any young adult within the ages of 15-25 what their favorite book series was growing up, they’ll likely respond with "Harry Potter". Both "Harry Potter" and myself were both introduced to the world in 1997, and on my tenth birthday exactly, the book series officially ended with the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". It’s been nearly nine long years since that day, and I’m still not over it.
Even though I didn’t grow up on "Harry Potter" in the same way that my peers did, the series was a very prevalent part of my life. While my peers’ affection for the series bloomed early on when their parents read the books to them or when they began reading the series themselves, my love bloomed in a different way: The films. Growing up, I only owned the first book of the series, and I read it over and over. At the time, though, I admit I was too shy or perhaps not interested enough in the series as a whole to beg for the rest of the existing series in the same way that I begged for GameBoy games or the newest Disney movie on VHS. I knew of this “Harry Potter” guy that some of my friends seemed to love, but I wasn’t really at all interested until the first movie came out.
I’ve always been a visual person, and this is proof. Nothing quite caught my attention like "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" did in 2001. After I saw the movie, I was hooked. Who was this Voldemort guy, and why is he so evil? From whom did Harry receive his invisibility cloak? Most importantly: Was I going to get an invitation to Hogwarts on my eleventh birthday?
I needed the books. After some whining and moping around for a few years about not having the books to my friends (in retrospect, not the people I should have been talking to about getting my hands on them), a good friend of mine offered to let me borrow his complete set of books so I could read the series for myself.
At this point, I had already seen quite a few of the films, but it was much better to actually sit down and read the books, as it always is. I plowed through the books in mere weeks. Over three thousand pages, all crammed into my tiny teenaged brain all at once.
I continued to enjoy the movies that came out as I got older, and I completely destroyed myself fretting over favorite characters who deserved more, my emotional capacity to love them only increasing with age. I flocked to Pottermore and eagerly got sorted into Slytherin, a house I’ve grown to love after overcoming the stigma toward it. Even now, I eagerly await J.K. Rowling’s newest projects, including "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", the first stage product of the series, and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", the prequel film coming out in November. I was among some of the first of my friends to read Rowling’s write-up describing Ilvermorny, the American magic school set amongst the Berkshires, and get sorted into my house.
I was sometimes (and still am) told by the older people in my life that I need to grow up, that my enjoying a book originally written for children is unbefitting for someone turning nineteen in less than a month.
Honestly though, I wouldn’t be the person I am now if "Harry Potter" wasn’t such a prevalent part in my life growing up. J.K. Rowling may have written a children’s book, full of magic and whimsy, but the lessons gained through these books are things that apply to real life, things that I struggle with even as an adult.
For example, "Harry Potter" taught me to question authority. Throughout the series, several authority figures in the universe aren’t as the seem. For example, Dolores Umbridge, the pastel, cat-loving Headmistress in "The Order of the Phoenix", though in a position of power, abuses that power regularly for her own agenda. Likewise, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic for most of the series, won’t admit that he lacks control over the magical world, and therefore many people get hurt.
The series also taught me that our past doesn’t define us. Draco Malfoy grew up in a heavily Death Eater-centric family, and was roped into working alongside Voldemort for the majority of his young adult life. Despite this upbringing, however, he eventually chooses that his family is more important the agenda of the Death Eaters, and does right by his actions in sparing lives and fleeing with his family in the end.
Dumbledore says in "The Prisoner of Azkaban" that “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” This is something that’s stuck with me during my worst times, keeping me optimistic even when there’s no hope or happiness in sight. In "The Order of the Phoenix", Luna Lovegood reminds Harry that loss is only temporary by telling him that “the things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end-- if not always in the way we expect.” The combination of this mentality along with remembering that happiness can be found wherever one looks for it has kept me going when nothing else has.
I could go on and on about "Harry Potter" and what it taught me, but the bottom line is that it will always be crucial part of my life, both in the way it fueled my childhood with imagination and also the way it guides my adult mentality. I encourage anyone who hasn’t read the books to do so, no matter how old you are, with an open mind. I know for a fact that when I have children, the series will be the go-to bedtime story, and I hope that they get as much from the series as I do still.