Exactly seven years ago, Sara and I were spending a night at our Uncle Earl and Aunt Jennifer’s. The reason I remember that is because I sat up until midnight in the top bunk of my cousin’s bed. When the clock struck twelve, I knew that thousands and thousands of people—many in costume—were at the city’s Barnes and Noble, madly grabbing for a yellow book that depicted a certain teenage wizard raised a hand to the sky. I was eleven years old. Even at eleven, I knew how significant this night was. At eleven, I was so jealous of those people that I briefly considered breaking out of the house to go to the bookstore.
Seven years ago today, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in the US. Seven years ago, millions of people poured into the 759 pages that ended a decade-old story. Seven years ago, people’s hearts were broken and made light all at the same time.
Harry Potter drives me crazy—I like it, but it’s not the religion it’s made out to be. I used to be as obsessed with it as anyone else I knew, but today my opinion has changed slightly. But no matter how you feel about this seven-volume saga, the influence this thing has had on culture, on literature, and on our generation in general, is enormous. The numbers speak for themselves: 44 million copies of this book sold, and it was translated into 120 languages. It holds the Guinness world record for fastest-selling book (a record I had no idea existed…)
Bearing in mind that I’m the kind of nerdy kid that follows writing blogs and worked at a library, I feel the most significant thing about this book is that it literally started a category of fiction. When you walk into a book store or a library, you’ll find a big ol’ section called the Young Adult section. This is where you’ll find a few books you might’ve heard of—Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Fault in our Stars, ect, ect. Now, The Outsiders and other books like it are called the “pioneers” of Young Adult fiction, but Rowling’s books are considered the defining members of this genre. And looking at the NYT bestsellers and the recent boom of young adult movies, I’d say that’s a pretty big deal.
Harry Potter saved an entire generation of readers. Kids that would’ve never read a book otherwise picked up these monsters and read them cover-to-cover. And they all have different reasons: some liked the magic, some liked the characters, some just wanted to be included in conversation. By actually going to the library to pick up these books, kids were exposed to a literary environment. And that is the most important thing a parent can do for his child, especially in this day and age where education truly determines your economic standing.
Concerning Deathly Hallows specifically, I was surprised with the quality of the text and today is my second favorite of the seven (Team Goblet of Fire). I cringe when I read the first three books of the series, but the others get better. Deathly Hallows, though long-winded and more complicated than I would’ve liked as a middle school kid, did the best job of surprising readers and evoking emotion. The anger I felt when reading Half-Blood Prince was nothing more than frustration at the illogical plot, the anger (and sadness and joy and excitement and empathy) was real. I finally, after seven books and several thousand pages, cared about the characters. Even whiny Harry Potter.
It succeeded as a final book in a series and as a book in general. It was this book that saves this story. It is this book that, seven years ago today, settled questions that people had been pondering for years. Questions that kept kids up at night. And no, it’s not perfect. But for a story like Harry Potter’s, it was perfect. It was the end of a fantastic world, but anyone that cried over its death had a fantastic book to thank for it.
Seven years ago today, all was well.