For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with the world of reading. There’s something remarkable about getting lost in a good story and letting your imagination take control. But it wasn’t until 1999, when I was 11 years old, that a story resonated with me so deeply that it hasn’t left me since, and probably never will.
The summer before sixth grade, my mom bought me a copy of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” I wasn’t immediately interested in a story about a boy wizard, but she insisted several of her friends’ kids had raved about it and that I should give it a try. How right she was.
J.K. Rowling’s writing was immediately engaging, the vivid description transporting me into a rich, new world. I felt like I was there with Harry on his first trip to Diagon Alley, his first glimpse at the Great Hall, his first Quidditch match and his first confrontation with the dark wizard bent on destroying him. At 11, I was the same age as Harry when he received that fateful letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The skinny bespectacled boy and his goofy, red-headed sidekick Ron seemed like people I could be friends with, and I was instantly invested in their adventures. And perhaps most of all I felt a connection with their know-it-all pal Hermione, who with her intelligence, curiosity and insecurity reminded me so much of myself.
By the time school started in the fall, it seemed every one of my classmates had been captivated by the world of “Harry Potter.” I eagerly tore through “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” My sixth grade teacher seemed so thrilled about how engrossed in reading her students had become that class discussion often turned to the series.
When “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” hit bookstore shelves, the series had exploded into a worldwide literary phenomenon. I pre-ordered the book months in advance and upon its arrival I clutched it like some long-awaited treasure and devoured it in days. My excitement and appreciation for the series never waned as I got older. If anything, it only grew stronger.
As Harry and his friends matured, so did I. As they experienced loss and love and the pains and pleasures of growing up, I experienced my own life changes. The characters were so layered, so flawed and so likeable that they only became more real to me. I was 19 when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was released, and it felt strange enough then that the regular anticipation of discovering what came next in Harry’s journey was drawing to a close. But then, I thought at least there were still a few more movies to look forward to, a few more chances to see Harry’s world come to life. And now, that too is on the verge of ending.
When the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released in 2001, I was in awe of the movie’s attention to detail, and of its faithfulness to Rowling’s incredible fiction. I relished the growth of the characters throughout each film, the story’s increasingly darker tone, the thrilling action and the emotional pull. For the cast and crew, whose talents grew stronger with each film, the “Harry Potter” series has clearly been a labor of love.
As I watch the trailer for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” my skin develops a trace of goosebumps and my eyes well up slightly with tears. This is the series I’ve loved for 12 years. These are the characters I’ve grown up with. And now this story of death and sacrifice, of love and friendship, of discovering oneself and the endless possibilities that lie beyond the protective walls of school, is truly over.
It’s a bittersweet moment for fans across the world, but I can’t help but feel my generation has a special connection to the boy who lived. For those of us that were around Harry’s age when the books initially soared to popularity and grew up with him, Ron and Hermione, the end of “Harry Potter” marks the end of our childhood. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that while there will continue to be other Potter-related ventures like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park and the interactive Web site Pottermore, the anticipation of a new chapter of Harry’s story is truly over now.
These will be books I read in sequence repeatedly for the rest of my life, movies I constantly pop into my DVD player. And one day, when they’re old enough, I look forward to sharing Harry’s adventures with my own future children, and seeing the wonder and excitement in their eyes.
So as the “Harry Potter” series takes its final bow, I want to say thank you to Warner Bros., the talented cast and incredible crew for bringing Harry’s adventures to life, and thank you J.K. Rowling for your vivid imagination, for your incredible gift of writing and for instilling in me a passion for reading and storytelling that helped define my childhood, my adolescence and my young adult life.
Thank you, Harry, for a truly magical journey.
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