Every summer from ages 9 to 16, I spent the summer with Harry Potter. Not an actual childhood friend that just so happened to be named Harry Potter, but with the books, movies, and fandom accoutrements relating to the Boy Who Lived. More than anyone other than my family and friends, JK Rowling has had the biggest impact on my life.
My childhood and adolescent summers included some typical Americana fare — summer camp, pool parties with my cousins, trips to Six Flags, etc. — but my most vivid memory of summer involve Rowling’s books, Mugglenet.com, Chamber of Secrets forum, and FanFiction.net. Using my dad’s office computer as I waited for him to finish working for the day, I soaked up any and all information about upcoming books and movies as I could. Lounging in my mom’s living room, I read and re-read the most recently released book, not even bothering to turn on the TV or pet my cat. (The TV is almost always on when I’m home, and I always pet my cat.)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book I remember actively reading for myself. Three books and three months later, I was hooked. Everything about the Golden Trio I adored. (Obviously, I was Hermione. Obviously, I was a Ron/Hermione shipper from their first introduction.) Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s inspiring friendship was couched in a colorful world that, at the time, seemed more vivid than the real world.
With Harry Potter, Rowling shaped my love for fantasy and YA literature, not to mention my obsession with fandom and cultural studies. She also had a great impact in the development of my emotional maturity, as I coped with the deaths of favorite characters (Dumbledore!), the complexity of once-hated characters (ugh, Snape), and the understandable albeit annoying outbursts of teen angst (OotP…need I say more?).
A few months ago, I had an extended conversation with old friends about Harry Potter — the excitement and angst in waiting for books to release, the impact the series has had on our worldview, and the strengths and weaknesses of the series. We all agreed on how anticipating the next book made the HP experience (not to be confused with the traveling show) all the sweeter. After celebrating our respective houses (Slytherin FTW!), we discussed our problems with the series, and they’re lengthy and legitimate!
Is everyone in the Wizarding World (or at least in the UK Wizarding World) Christian since it seems everyone celebrates Christmas?
Did Rowling not realize what a problem it was to introduce the concept of the Time Turner and only use it in Prisoner of Azkaban?
Do young witches and wizards receive education before attending Hogwarts?
What kind of health and sex education do students receive at Hogwarts?
Why didn’t Draco receive a more nuanced conclusion to his arc?
Did any Slytherins fight with Harry at the Battle of Hogwarts besides Professor Slughorn? (I have Slytherin concerns.)
We’ve grown. We’ve had more life (and pop culture) experiences. We’ve…moved on from Harry Potter. This is the first part of my life that I’ve realized Harry Potter isn’t the end all, be all of my pop culture loves. Rowling isn’t a goddess brought down from on high to impart on us the Good Word of Harry. She’s a wildly talented — but not infallible — author/ storyteller, who shared her tales of the Boy Who Lived to the world (Wizarding and otherwise).
The post-Harry Potter era has had its ups (the Wizarding World is real-ish!) and downs (ugh Pottermore), but I’m comfortable with the notion that Harry Potter will never really go away. (Movies? Plays? HOW ABOUT MORE BOOKS?!)
Here’s to those summers with Harry and to the hope for more to come.