OH HEY GUYS:
Ever since I started this blog, in 2010, I have been (lovingly) harassed about the fact that I have never read Harry Potter. I knew this was a serious rarity in the YA book world but alas….I had not.
When the first book came out I was 12. I vaguely remember people around me reading it but, even though I was a big reader all my life up to that point, I had just moved 4 hours away to a new town and a new school and I was trying so hard to fit in that that’s where all my time was going to — making friends. Plus I was in this stage where I only wanted to read teen mags so the idea of a book about a young wizard did not appeal to 12 year old Jamie. But the thing is, all those years when it first gained popularity I remember it happening but I do not actively remember the people around me being like super fans or even really talking about the books. Maybe I just wasn’t rolling with the right people? Either way, because of that, I never felt a push to read them even if I *knew* they were super popular. Then my reading drought happened. Then college where I never had time to read.
Then, two years later after college in 2010, I joined the blogging world and almost instantaneously I felt this pressure, that I had NEVER felt before, to read Harry Potter when I saw how life changing and formative it had been for so many. And it just kept mounting. I actively WANTED to read it. Was excited at the prospect of it. Wanted to discover it for myself.
But I was scared.
I was scared that it wasn’t going to live up to the experience I’ve witnessed others have — people who talk about it daily and reference it all the time and who were forever changed by it. I mean, you wanna talk hype, try being a person who hasn’t read Harry Potter in a community full of book lovers! There is no hype for a book like that. There has to be a word beyond hype because that doesn’t even cut it. People GREW UP with Harry.
I was scared that I wasn’t going to like it. I mean who would want to be THAT person?? I would probably have to retire from blogging and go in the equivalent of the Witness Protection Program.
I was scared that the magic wouldn’t be there because I was reading it for the first time at 30 and not 12. I knew it held up for so many adults rereading it but I was afraid I was too old and jaded and I don’t even know what to be reading it for the first time at 30. That the magic wouldn’t be there. I can’t really explain it but that’s how I felt and deeply feared it.
But let me tell to you…..I was so dead wrong.
I think I discovered that the magic of Harry Potter is that it gives you what you need when you read it — no matter how old you are. I am a 30 year who believes that adults can enjoy children’s books and YA books but I have experienced nothing like the transcendent experience of Harry Potter. Sometimes I felt like I was a giddy 12 year old anxiously going on this journey with Harry and daydreaming about going to Hogwarts and sometime I read it with my adult eyes and my adult emotions and views. But that magic was there — burning and burning and burning fiercely.
When I was reading it, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t reading it for the first time along with everyone else as a kid or that all around me is Harry Potter hype or that I felt like I was the last person on this earth of my age group to read it — it honestly felt like I was experiencing this thing that nobody else had and that maybe I was the ONLY person on earth to read it. I mean, as soon as I would take a break from reading I was so happy to remember I had all of Twitter to lament with when my heart was breaking, because I was in fact clearly not the only person to ever experience it, but when I was in those moments, so 100% transported into the story, it was as if none of that mattered and the Harry Potter that I had heard of was not even the Harry Potter I was experiencing. I felt like the only person who had ever experienced it.
Now, sure, do I wish that I had grown up with Harry Potter so that I could have had the excitement of waiting for each book and feeling like I grew up with the series and everything that goes along with it? Absolutely. But I didn’t. And my experience wasn’t any less magical. I had stayed relatively free of spoilers and never watched the movies (honestly the only big thing I knew was about Dumbledore) so I was going into all of this with no real ideas of what to expect (other than OH BEST BOOKS EVER ACCORDING TO THE WORLD) so everything was the most devastating blow as if I had read them when they were first coming out. I was thankful for that part of my experience and how it probably factored into it.
I think the other thing about reading Harry Potter for the first time as an adult is there are things that, had I read it for the first time back then, I would have never connected with the way that I did or had the same things resonate or stick out to me. There were things I may have passed over as a kid.
I think as an adult, who lost a parent as a young person, watching Harry struggle with this ever present grief and loss resonated with me so much. I think it shook me in such a profound way because I understood it. 12 year old me might have felt deeply for Harry but I could have never read it the same way as I did now having experienced such loss. I could have experienced those dark depths with Harry and it would have been super emotional because JK Rowling is brilliant but to feel it in such a personal way? It added so much more to that experience.
One of the biggest examples of that is this one tiny part in Goblet of Fire:
I wept at this scene as hard as I did some death scenes. It broke me honestly. I have memories of hugging my mom but they feel like a lifetime away because I was just a kid (we were not a huggy bunch once I got past middle school). It made me appreciate in Mrs. Weasley all the surrogate moms I’ve had in my life. It made me appreciate my stepmom even more for how, even though my mom isn’t here, I have her to guide me in a motherly way even at 30. I think as an adult it breaks my heart for all the motherless kids out there because I am one. And to know people who are surrogate moms and stepmoms and oh man..I KNOW to my depths the selflessness of them. I would have loved Mrs. Weasley and recognized all these things in her and these interactions with her and Harry would have made me cry likely…but I just know I wouldn’t have seen them the same way had the first time I read them been when I was 12. Maybe upon a reread it would have stuck out to me but I’m glad Mrs. Weasley and this relationship was everything to me my first go around.
There were just all these things I think as a kid I would have never felt as strong about. I could go on and on and on.
I think that’s the beauty of these books — no experience will ever be the same as someone else’s and, even though I’ve only read them once, I have to guess that no read YOU ever have of them will be with the same eyes. Always something new to glean or to feel or to experience or to see for the first time.
I think the best part about reading it for the first time as an adult is how even more impressive it was to feel that MAGIC for the first time. To be aware of how special these books are and how they hold up even more than I could ever imagined to the way people talk about them. To recognize how truly special the experience is and that how, as an adult, it’s hard to find that magic anymore so to experience it so purely and freely was amazing. I went into Harry Potter with a lot of expectations and buildup and THESE BOOKS CHANGED MY LIFE personal accounts, which is a really tall order to ever live up to, and it exceeded them more than I could ever have imagined.
GOD these books are just so brilliant and I just want to reread them already. I mean, JK Rowling HOW? How did you do this? There are so many things that I want to point out about how brilliant they are but 1) I don’t have the words and 2) most of you just already know what I mean. I’m amazed and in awe still at what she wrote and how deeply I felt it.
I know a lot of people pity me for not having read Harry Potter up until this point but don’t. Just because I haven’t been a fan for my whole life doesn’t mean my experience was any less magical or that I’m missing something or I’m less of a fan (yeah, someone made me feel like that and I’m just like okay I don’t think you can quantify this shit but OKAY if it makes you feel better). Sure, it would have been great to experience it alongside everyone else and I don’t have those memories that so many do but my experience was my own and it felt as pure as anybody’s first read of it could have been. I experienced the magic deeply in a way I couldn’t have imagined just by hearing about it. So personally, so uniquely.
And maybe my experience was “late” or different than yours but I think the magic in this series lies in that there is no expiration date or one right experience. There is no late to the party. The party goes on infinitely and transcends time. The magic is there, and it might manifest differently, but it is there for the experiencing whenever you need it. And…the fandom, for the most part, is ready to welcome you in as if you’ve always been there and not point out that your invitation looks a little bit different than theirs. Plus, not to mention, they will help pick you up after you finish when you feel like WHAT IS LIFE WHY IS THIS OVER WHAT WILL I DO NOW because, even though it’s been years for them, it’s so easy to be transported back to remember how devastating and wonderful and emotional it all was the first time you read it.
I can’t believe my first experience is over with Harry Potter and I look forward to a reread (when I’ve recovered) and to watch the movies and dive even further into the world and the fandom. I am relieved to not have to be on ~constant vigilance~ alert mode for spoilers all the time (I haz skills y’all, I know). I am honored to be a fan of this series and to have experienced a truly life changing story — one I was scared wouldn’t happen for me. Thank you for being along with me for the journey and cheering me on and being there for me throughout my reading experience!!
One shoutout though: I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite character because I could literally write a 50 page analysis for why quite a few of them are my faves/the best ever but Mrs. Weasley is everything to me. I honestly strive to be half the woman she is and her selflessness and strength and capacity for love really moved me — even when she wasn’t always appreciated. Plus she has one of the best lines in Deathly Hallows that made me laugh amidst a waterfall of tears (and then made me cry some more) when she said, “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!!” and was the most boss ass bitch around.
Oh my god guys I can’t stop crying or blabbering on. I have so much to say. I feel so much. Too much. I might explode. My binge was a whirlwind and I feel like there’s gotta be some potion to drink that can bring me some chill, right?? Or is this why 100% of you have no chill ever when talking about this series? I’m destined for a life of never being the same again??
So that’s all for now….time to eat my feelings.