So, Harry Potter has been famous for what feels like forever. I remember vividly when I was first introduced to it, a few years prior to it becoming famous. I was in primary school, maybe Grade 4. We had one of those Book Fairs happening, and mum agreed to let me buy one book. Do schools still do Book Fairs? They should. They were awesome. Though I guess we didn’t have iPads back then, so maybe they aren’t cool any more. Whatever, it was after school and I was in the library, looking at all the newly-erected temporary book stands filled with the latest children’s book titles. One of the covers caught my eye, one with a blue flying car and two kids hanging out the window. The librarian, Mrs Bourke, came over and said that she’d recommend the series, but that I was holding the second book and should probably start with the first. In this case, I literally judged the book by it’s cover and decided against her suggestion, intrigued more by the flying car than the train.
I got home and started to read it. Big surprise though, I couldn’t follow what was going on. I tried multiple times over the next year to get into it, but would inevitably give up after the first few chapters.
The book sat on my shelf for two years. Then – out of nowhere – everyone was talking about the series. Literally overnight, it went from nobody talking about books to it being the latest thing. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand why everyone liked it. I couldn’t get into it at all, and at that stage, I was an avid reader. I’d demolish book after book. It wasn’t like me to give up on them. So I was really confused about the whole overnight phenomenon.
I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but within the next couple of months, I managed to get my hands on the first book that I’d turned my nose up at years before. I started to read it, and suddenly everything made sense. I read the first and second book within a couple of weeks. I really liked it, and was glad I could finally enjoy the book that I’d attempted so many times.
It took awhile for me to get my hands on the third book as there was a giant waiting list at the library for it (it’s hard to believe that was even a thing, much less that it seemed perfectly normal at the time!). I think I was at least halfway through grade 6 before I read it, and again, really liked it. I remember that, even at that young age, I was perplexed that the hype for the series was still going strong. I assumed (incorrectly) that it would fizzle out like most things did. Every kid who enjoyed reading (which was a lot back then) was hanging out for the next installment.
The next book came out and by then, my sister had also gotten into the series so mum decided it was okay to buy it instead of waiting a ridiculously long time for a copy to free up at the library. Despite being the longest book of the series (and the longest book I’d ever read at the time) I chewed through it.
As this book was coming out, so too was the movie. The hype for the series grew exponentially, which seemed unfathomable as it was already so high as it was. I didn’t see the film in the cinema, but my sister bought the VHS when it came out and I watched it there. I was disappointed – I wasn’t used to seeing films based off books and I felt it was missing a lot. I was young and couldn’t comprehend the reasons why they’d leave stuff out.
As the second film was about to come out a year or so later, the hype became overwhelming. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing posters or merchandise or people talking excitedly about it. People on the TV and radio would talk about it, kids at school couldn’t stop guessing what it would be like.
That’s when I decided I’d had enough.
This was my very first taste of going against the crowd. I was sick of hearing about the boy wizard, sick of seeing Daniel Radcliffe’s face everywhere and mostly, sick of people expecting me to be obsessed with it. Granted, I did enjoy the books that I’d read, and the movie wasn’t bad (if lacking), but I felt like I had to fight the world. Part of me was a little sad, but I refused to acknowledge it. I didn’t want to be like everybody else.
My sister didn’t share my views, and ate up all the HP goodness she could. She’d buy the books as they came out, see the newest movies in the cinema, even write fanfiction in her free time. We were polar opposites (which is hardly anything new).
I fought the fight for over a decade. I didn’t read any more of the books, didn’t see any more of the movies, refused to partake in discussions about any of it. I told people I didn’t like the series, when actually it was the hype I didn’t like. The more films that came out, the bigger the hype. When the last book came out, I still remember the news reports with kids who lined up for hours to get their copy. When they got it they hugged it and bawled their eyes out. They’d stay up all night reading it to try to be the first in the world to finish it. I watched the report, rolling my eyes and scoffing. What was wrong with these kids? It’s just a book.
Last month, I decided after all these years, to listen to that sad little voice that had been within me this whole time, who kept saying “you’re allowed to like the series along with everyone else! Please don’t stop reading! You want to know what happens!”. I read the books as avidly as I had the first time. It had been so long since I’d read them that a lot of the stuff that happened was actually surprising, which was pretty cool. It was like I got a second chance to read it for the first time. I managed to read all 7 books within a month, and it was only then, as I finished the last one, that I wish I’d read it along with the rest of the world. Suddenly, I understood the hysteria. I was sad – really, really sad – that I’d come to the end of Harry’s story. I completely understood why people wrote fanfiction, why others were obsessed with the Pottermore site, why people would hold Harry Potter themed parties. The series was magical, in every sense of the world. Reading it so late, though, meant I’d missed my chance to talk to others about it. The hysteria finally subsided, and I wasn’t going to be the one to desperately try to bring it back.
All I could do to try to keep the series going was watch all the movies, and I enjoyed them (moreso than I had when I was 12) but it wasn’t the same. I expected them to leave a lot out and change things, which they did, and I just couldn’t get the same feeling back I’d had while reading the books. I had to accept it, I’d have to move on with my life. It seriously felt like a weird kind of mourning. Partly it was a mourning because I could never read the books again not knowing what was coming next…and partly because I’d missed out on going through the excitement when I was younger. That ship had sailed and there was nothing I could do to bring either thing back.
I’d finally learnt a valuable lesson, a decade too late – always be yourself and don’t let anyone influence your decisions. If I hadn’t let the hype get to me, and if I had of listened to that little voice, I’d have enjoyed the ride with everyone else. Instead, I’m left to enjoy it alone…and that’s no fun! Better late than never though, I suppose.