Harry Potter and When Things Turn Ugly

Midnight release party announcement of the week: So - you know all those incredibly detailed Harry Potter coloring books that have come out in the last year? Well, we're putting them to good use with a Harry Potter coloring station! (And as always, don't forget to register for the Harry Potter fanfic open mic!) Now on to today's blog post. Two weeks ago Bookseller Heather talked about how excellent it is to read Harry Potter aloud, as a family. This week Bookseller Shana talks about what happens when not everyone can read the book at the same time...

While I have mostly good memories associated with Harry Potter, I must admit, it has caused a lot of strife in my family. My parents, my two sisters, and I are all fans, but we are also all highly opinionated and competitive, and a book as transformative to the world as Harry Potter couldn't help but cause problems.

The first ripples started when my mom read the first book to me. I didn't think it sounded interesting, but she said we'd read it together, and I accepted. I'm not sure when I got hooked. I only know that it was the last time anyone read to me because pretty quickly, I outpaced her. She kept stopping for silly things like sleeping or driving or having work and I didn't have time to wait for that grown-up nonsense when I could already read perfectly well on my own. By the time she read the last chapter to me, I'd already been finished for weeks.

I don't remember when my younger sister read the books. Possibly right after I started, possibly a few years later. I only remember when I turned 11, and the crushing disappointment of not getting that letter inviting me to Hogwarts. And I definitely remember when she pointed out she could still get her letter. Oh, I did not like that. I knew, of course, that Harry Potter was fictional and she was no more likely to get a letter than I was, but there was a part of me that had really hoped it would be real, that I would get to go on that magical adventure. I certainly didn't hope that my sister would get to go and I wouldn't!

My dad and I traded off trivia questions, trying to stump the other one with the most obscure details we could think of. His favorite: "What is Professor Trelawney's first name?" stumped me for a while (It's Sybill!), but I got him back by asking him what Professor Sprout's name is (Pomona). It was a pretty heated rivalry.

The worst fights, though, were around who got to read the books first.

For the first four, maybe even five, my first dibs were unquestioned. I was oldest, had been reading them for longest, and didn't really waste time asking if everyone was okay with me going first before I started reading. But by the time the sixth book came around, my younger sister had started questioning how fair that was. She argued that I'd gotten to read all the others first, it was her turn now. I argued that I was a faster reader: she'd keep me waiting a week or more while my habit was to start at midnight and finish by the morning. I also had an intense spoiler phobia and an active internet fandom life. If I didn't read them immediately I was in danger of spoilers. It ended up bad enough that my parents bought three copies when the seventh book came out rather than deal with us fighting. I finished before anyone else had even cracked the covers.

The only reason we had these fights was because we all loved this series so much. Despite the heated battles, I also remember how much fun it was chatting about it with my family. Sorting ourselves into one of the four houses. Going to midnight releases and movie premiers together. Even the fights I remember fondly. It was this huge thing that we all loved and I can't even imagine what our lives would have been like if we'd never read these books.

….but I'm still glad my sister didn't get that letter.