I’ll be addressing the Harry Potter series herein, finally. As far as life changing series go, you can’t get much bigger or obvious than this one. There’s loads of literary experts and fans who’ve offered their opinion on why this series is such a big deal. They’ve discussed what it does for readers young and old, the ramifications of movie castings and fan fictions, and thematic forms of the series. I’m here to talk about what this series did for me, though. Why do the science-y sounding boring work of talking, listening, and gathering data when I’ve got stuff inside my own head to blather on about, right?
When looking at how Harry Potter changed my life, I have to look at the series as a whole because that’s how those books affected me the most. I’ve read some really brilliant fantasy series. That’s what I’d been drawn to as a kid naturally, of course. I can’t think of one series, though, that managed to pull off what the Harry Potter series did. I don’t mean to set the bar ludicrously high or anything like that, of course. I always felt that what dear old Potter offered me was something actually rather simple. These books were friends that could grow up with me.
Puberty can be very awkward for many reasons. My bibliophile nature added another awkward layer of adjustment when my reading skills jumped from “independent reader,” to the brave new world of “YA.” I didn’t just suddenly come to hate all the kiddie books I once loved, though. It was more like I started aging and they all stayed the same. They thought and talked about little kid stuff when I was ready to start looking for something deeper, to start using bigger words to describe bigger things than Captain Underpants’s thirst for justice, (no, just kidding, I always hated that series. It was the Keeping up with the Kardashians or Jersey Shore of my elementary school years.)
Just jumping straight into the deep end of big girl book section was not something I was looking forward to though. I might open some book that started talking about… grown up things… eeeew. My average reading skill and hunger seemed to keep outpacing my actual level of maturity in growth. Those early days of YA reading made me feel like a lil first grader thrown into a high school cafeteria for lunch. I’d cautiously walk around the tables of towering teenagers and try to pick one to sit at. Some of them would think I was adorable and certainly make room for me. Some, though, would be decidedly less concerned with making sure I could connect to their themes and make jokes and conversations that always went over my head, except for the little barbs and jibes I felt were aimed at my own silly naivety. With all the care I usually put into choosing books, things could still end up a bit like roulette. There were far and few books between I could look at and trust to be my friend. That’s not to say I found none, though.
Imagine my surprise when one day I wandered around, looking for some place to sit, when I saw my old wizard friends sitting at one table, reading up on charms, playing wizard chess, and goofing around like they always did in the books, (sorry guys, this is strictly metaphorical. Don’t freak out or anything.) Harry and his friends all grew up as I did too, I discovered with delight.
Harry didn’t stay a little kid forever, nor did he become a teenager in a story still tailored to little kids. As Harry and his friends grew, the whole story matured, like the series was actually going through puberty. Harry, Ron and Hermione started thinking and worrying about puberty-born issues like their bodies and dating in a way I could recognize as utterly authentic from my own experiences. The witches and wizards of Hogwarts, then became much more like human friends who would grow up with me than any other book I’d seen before. It was a singularly unusual yet immensely comforting experience.
For adults or people who read the series without growing up with it, I’m not sure it would be the same experience. I remember my mother calling the Order of the Phoenix the “annoyingly angsty one. If I recall correctly, my response went something along the lines of, “Well God mom sometimes the world gives you stuff to feel angsty about! What do you know?! Huh? God, why does no one understand me? I’m going to be up in my room now, don’t bother me! BLAAAAH!” So yeah. I’m all better now. Puberty has been thoroughly purged from my system, but I still look back on each of these books fondly. Sometimes I do notice how juvenile or angst-ridden some of the books are when I look back, but I don’t get irked by it any more than I would at an old friend who made all those silly, dumb decisions and postures right by my sides. That’s what Harry Potter did, and perhaps still does, for me.
I don’t necessarily hear this opinion much from others, so I can’t be sure how many people connect to this aspect of the series, but there’s plenty of lovely fan art that shows what people do love about the series. (Yes, a pinterest gallery is coming.) As far as I can tell, the themes of friendship, bravery, and sacrifice really spoke to people, as well as the magic and humor of the books. I can’t say I don’t love those aspects of the series as well, especially when it can inspire such beautiful art. Take a look: