The first time I heard anything about Harry Potter was in the sixth grade. A boy in my class was lugging around a paperback copy of “The Philosopher’s Stone” (I refuse to utter the American translation “sorcerer’s”) and my classmates lightly mocked him for his choice of leisure reading. I was too busy leading my animated family to their deaths in “The Oregon Trail” computer game to bother investigating further. Plus, I was so not a reader back then.
Fast forward about a year.
My dad and I were watching CNN one night – July 7, 2000 – and all I saw on the screen were flashes of kids with scars on their foreheads, weird scarves wrapped tightly around their flushed faces, and pointy sticks being swished back and forth as they paraded around with a really heavy book. All I could do was laugh and laugh a lot I did.
My dad, however, found it intriguing.
That same weekend we went into a Waldenbooks (my first time in a bookstore) and bought a copy of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” for $25.95. I would later come to find out a true HP fan never pays the cover price.
I would be lying if I said I went straight home and read this 734 page book in one night. It took me four months to actually crack the thing open. Instead, during this interim I used the book as a proper queen-sized bed for my dolls, a paperweight, a door for my Barbie playhouse, and a heavy inanimate object to hurl across my room when I was upset.
Then, one stormy boring winter night my life changed.
I raised the frayed book towards my face and did not put it down until I was done. I was entranced by the meanie who was Voldemort, by the house elf crusader Hermione, and the courageous but still relatable boy-who-lived. I finished the book that same night and was ravenous for more. I quickly discovered that there were three books preceding the one I had just devoured (which explained why I did not understand an iota of chapter 8, “The Quidditch World Cup”), and I begged my parents to buy them. So the following Saturday I bought “Prisoner of Azbakan” and the rest is really self-explanatory and pretty dull.
So what has this got to do with YA? Everything.
This series transformed the landscape of children’s literature. Suddenly, it was cool for books to be lengthy, to be read, and to be a part of the mainstream conversation. Reading was fun again. The septology transformed me as well. After reading the series in reverse I had to feed my hunger until “Order of the Phoenix” came out and my only solace was YA. I plowed through “Sabriel,” “Artemis Fowl,” “Eragon,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and I was still starving. I delve into “About a Boy,” “The Notebook,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “Ethan Frome.” English was no longer this boring 40 minute class I had to suffer through but a place where I could passionately discuss the written word. There came a point when my parents started to tell me I was reading too much. I had become a YA bibliophile.
As the first part of the last book hits theatres all these memories come rushing back. I would not be the rabid YA reader (and YARNer) I am if it was not for a boy with black horn rimmed glasses, dark unkempt hair, and a lightening bolt scar.