When I was about six, I tried to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently it was good, and it was going to be made into a movie, so the librarian recommended it at school. But the book was long, it had big confusing words, and I couldn't figure it out. I saw the word "Dumbledore" and I didn't even know how to begin to pronounce it, so I put it down to never be opened again.
And for the next thirteen years, I would never read a single Harry Potter book. And for the most part, I missed the films too. I tried to watch the first movie when I was in the second grade but it scared me. So I decided not to see the second one. And then when the third came out, I decided not to see it because I hadn't seen the second. And this pattern continued until I was in high school. All of a sudden everyone was talking about how they went to the midnight premiere of the last Harry Potter movie and I was like "Already? Well I guess I missed that whole thing."
And for the next couple years, I still never bothered to catch onto this trend. Everyone would tell me to read the books and watch the movies. And people would be flabbergasted when they found out that I had never been exposed to the wizarding world, but I still never bothered. It wasn't that I had anything against Harry Potter, I just didn't care that much. And I especially didn't care enough to read seven long books or watch eight long movies.
When I got to college, again everyone was surprised that I had never read Harry Potter. Mainly because I go to a school that has six Quidditch teams, one being one of the best in the country, and numerous other Harry Potter events and clubs. But people were also surprised because not being into one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons was uncharacteristic of me. I am obsessed with pop culture. I live in movie theaters. But the one thing that had always been beyond me was this wizard kid.
One day, the second semester of my freshman year, I was sitting alone in my suite's common room, avoiding the piles of homework that loomed over me. On the coffee table sat Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. And I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny if I started reading this book?" So, with the intent to just read a page or two, I picked the book up and began reading. I read about half the book that night.
The next morning I asked all my suitemates whose copy of the book I was reading and if I could hang onto it for the week, and they all looked at me with their jaws dropped. They told me that they were proud of me at least 12 times in a span of five minutes. And thankfully, between everyone in the suite, there were copies of the first five books, so I was set for a while.
They immediately began asking me questions. "What do you already know about Harry Potter?" And I told them what I knew. I hadn't read the books, but I wasn't an idiot. I had picked a few things up over the span of my lifetime. I knew all basics. Harry lived with his mean aunt and uncle because Voldemort killed his parents. He gets a letter to go to Hogwarts and that's how he learned he was a wizard. Hogwarts is a school for magic. He's friends with Ron and Hermione. Draco is the school bully. Dumbledore is the headmaster. At some point there is a Neville Longbottom and the word "horcrux."
The only spoilers that I knew were that Harry married Ginny, Hermione married Ron, and Dobby died. That was what my friends were surprised at the most. They would keep asking me, "Are you sure you're not forgetting one? Like a really big one?" I had no idea what they were talking about. If I had to guess, it was probably Snape killing Dumbledore. But they kept asking if I knew anything else so finally I just said, "What? is Hogwarts going to explode or burn to the ground or something?" They looked at me blankly and said, "Well...no." I told them that we couldn't talk about Harry Potter that much anymore in fear of spoilers, and went on tumblr 70% less frequently to avoid learning things I didn't want to learn.
For months, I lived in a constant fear of spoilers. While I was on the Prisoner of Azkaban, I told my friend that I had been introduced to Cedric Diggory, which excited me because I'm a Hufflepuff. She was with her sister, who did not know this was my first time reading the books. So she said, "He died in the graveyard right? Or was it at the school?" I shouted "NOOOO," and fell to the ground. My friend consoled me by saying, "Don't worry, that doesn't happen until the fourth one!"
Because I had schoolwork while I was reading these, it took me a while to get through them. For the first three I read about a book a week. It took me almost two to get through Goblet of Fire, and I don't even know how long for the Order of Phoenix. In the end, it took me the majority of my spring semester and then some of my summer break until I had finished them all.
After I finished each book, I would watch the corresponding film. When I was done with the movies I watched behind the scenes clips and read books about the makings of the films and I read interviews with JK Rowling about how she came up with the book and I read blogs with fan theories and I looked at Harry Potter merchandise and searched ways to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party until more or less my whole life revolved around Harry Potter.
Getting to be part of this craze so late made me so mad that I had missed it as a kid. It made me wonder how magical it must have felt to really grow up with these books, and to wait for the next one, and to dress up at the midnight premieres. I could have been one of those kids whose first crush was Daniel Radcliffe or Tom Felton. Or identified with little Hermione Granger.
But there is something cool about reading it as an adult. I can tell how these books are prime examples of social activism, which is something I would not have appreciated as a child. I also like Harry and Ginny, and Ron and Hermione more than I would have as a kid, because growing up it would have been so natural for me to assume that Harry and Hermione would end up together. I also feel like I have a better understanding of Voldemort as a character, and of Death Eaters in general, than I would have been able to grasp when I was a child. The themes in this series as a whole are something that I only would have had a basic understanding of if I read them growing up. Even now, just thinking about them, I still feel like there is so much to explore.
But other than this, I feel like reading these books in a sense brought me back to childhood. Even though they were never present in mine, something about picking them up felt nostalgic. I still reacted like a ten year old to them; laughing at Harry's first kiss, throwing the book across the room when Fred died. I even slept with a light on while was reading the seventh book because it frightened me.
Perhaps one of the best parts of this Harry Potter experience was after I was done, I told my twin sister that she should read them. And watching someone read Harry Potter for the first time is about as magical as the story itself.
Now, whenever Harry Potter works its way into the conversation, I take part instead of tune out. In fact, I often work the story into the conversation myself. I can pick up on references as if I've known them my whole life. And I have more Hufflepuff and miscellaneous Harry Potter paraphernalia than most college kids need. All is well.