Sunday, July 22, 2007

759 pages in 21 hours

This blog is going to be about Harry Potter, so if you are not into him or are tired of hearing about all this, you can totally skip it. No worries.

But for those who are still reading, don't worry...I won't be posting any spoilers. I just wanted to share my first-ever experience of attending a "midnight release party" and then spending 21 hours of the next 28 reading the final book in the Harry Potter series. Here we go!

It all started in summer 2000. I was working at camp and I saw a counselor friend of mine reading Book 4. I was intrigued so I asked her about it. She gushed on and on about this boy named Harry who had a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and got whisked away to a magical school for witches and wizards. She said she was reading Book 4, but if I was going to start, I should start with Book 1.

When the summer was over, I borrowed my younger sister's copy of Book 1 and began reading with loads of apprehension. A book about an 11 year old wizard in England? Would it be sketchy? Would it have lots of talk about witchcraft? I had no idea what to expect. But I found myself being thoroughly charmed during my reading. By the time I finished, I was immediately grabbing Book 2 and reading that one as well.

Soon followed Book 3 and 4 and then I couldn't get enough. Pottermania hit me hard. I had fallen in love with Harry, Ron, Hermoine, and all their crazy adventures. Fans had to wait three summers to get Book 5. I remember summer 2003 getting my book and not even waiting to get home to start reading. I sat in my car in a parking garage, scouring every word as quickly as possible. Yes, I am a nerd.

We had to wait two more years to get Book 6. Summer 2005. Again, got my book on the release day and my eyes attacked its pages for the next week, sometimes staying up till 1 or 2 in the morning to finish a chapter.

And now that brings us to the release of the final Harry Potter book - Book 7. My friend Haley wanted to go the "midnight release party" at our local bookstore. I had never been to one, and since it was the last book and all, we went for it. Here are some pixs from the night:
It was packed! People of all ages everywhere. Kids and adults were dressed up in Hogwarts robes, Harry's signature round glasses and lightning scar, or Hagrid the giant, or a dementor covered in black garbage bags chasing people around the streets outside. The energy was so high. You could tell the build-up of the past week...heck the past 2 years...was reaching an all-time high.

After listening to some Shakespearian actors read the last chapter of Book 6 outloud to a group of listeners, I walked around to all the different stations. One station had a magician.
This one had Sirius Black speaking to kids through the fire.

This section had trivia about the books and gave prizes to kids who answered correctly.
Another station had a game where kids had to carry a slug on a spoon across the room without dropping it. (The funny part was when I took this picture, the guy had just dropped the slug as he put it on the girl's spoon. Nice.)
As midnight drew closer, people started screaming and laughing with anticipation. We all headed outside to get in line. The line was crazy! It went all the way around the whole block and then some! There must have been at least a thousand people there. We made friends with the people near us in line and watched all the costumed people walk by.
At midnight, everyone shouted with glee and the line began moving. People who had their book ran by us in line holding it high. We all cheered and clapped for them. It was so exciting. Others weren't even waiting to get back to their car to start reading. They started reading page one in the street.

I grabbed my book, hugged Haley good-bye, bought myself an extra large soda, and stayed up till 4 am to read (even though I am a night-owl, I never stay up that late). I was still wide awake and wanted to know what happened next, but I forced myself to go to sleep. Haley and I had promised each other we would have the book finished by the next night. I was determined.

I woke up at 11 am and promptly started reading again. I read all day. Oh my goodness. I will probably never do it again. This was a one-time-only deal. I just don't think our bodies are meant to sit and read for that long at a time. I barely ate and drank, hardly left my room.

I have never felt so anti-social in my life. Roomates and friends kept coming up to my room or calling me wanting to go have fun and I kept turning them down, feverishly turning the pages in my book. About five o'clock, I started to feel sick. I needed air. I left my stuffy room, made myself some food, and sat outside reading for awhile. Ahhh...much better. At least 20 degrees cooler.

I got a text message from Haley at 8 p.m. saying she was done and I flipped. "How could she be DONE?!?!" I still had a fourth of the book to go! I HAD to find out what happened to Harry. I would stay up all night if need be.

My roomates all went to bed around midnight. My light was the only one still on in the house. As the book started coming to a close, I began to feel very sad. And at 4:00 a.m. when I read the last sentence of the last page and closed the book, the sadness was overwhelming. I had read 759 pages in 21 hours. It was over. Done. Complete. No more.

Have you guys ever felt that way with a book? I wonder if people felt it when they finished "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis or "The Return of the King" by Tolkien. Or any other series or book where you have been enthralled for hours. The characters you have been with for days or months, whom you almost feel like you have experienced everything with...are gone. Yes, you know you can go back and read about their adventures again, but it holds no mystery or surprise anymore. You know how it is going to turn out. They won't be coming back for any new adventures. In a way, you are saying goodbye to those dear friends whom you have come to know and love.

Maybe you think I'm crazy to feel this way or "Whoa, that Sarah is in way too deep with this Potter series" or whatever else. I'm ok with that. All I know is that it is a joy to have read all 7 Harry Potter books and even though it may sound funny, I'm glad I got to be alive when they were released. These books will be passed down and read by children of all ages. And how fun to remember back in life when I got to be there for their release and how much fun and excitement they brought.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for bringing the love of reading back to so many people!

Harry Forever.


Amanda said...

I love Harry Potter! I've actually never read one of the books but I love the movies! My friend tells me I need to read the books, that there's so much left out of the movies. I may start reading from book 1. I'm glad you got to be there for the release party!

Smarshie said...

You should defintely read the books. They are fab. You'll get hooked! =)