Spoiler Alert: Good triumphs over evil, some people die, I name names.
Anticipation can be a good thing. Especially when the object of your anticipation arrives and proves itself worth the wait. For the most part the Harry Potter novels delivered on their promise as those of us who jumped on the train when the third book reached critical mass waited patiently for each new book to emerge from J.K. Rowling’s brain.
The anticipation could be difficult at times but we turned it into a party. Midnight book releases with parties and people dressed as their favorite characters. Not to mention the fact that the movie releases started leapfrogging the book launches so we had a steady stream of Harry Potter to saturate the globe.
But now the books are finished and the final movie has been released. The waiting is over and the material is out there in the world just waiting to be consumed. Fortunately for J.K. Rowling subsequent generations of children seem happy to rediscover Harry Potter all over again and her giant swimming pool of money is in no danger of drying up. But what kind of experience are those subsequent generations having?
When the series was being released the original audience started at approximately 11 years old. With the delay between books the audience had a chance to grow up with the characters and I have to say, Rowing did an exceptional job of evolving the story over time so that it would mirror that growth. While The Sorcerer’s Stone is appropriate for a pre-teen audience Deathly Hallows is definitely a young adult book intended for older teenagers. It’s a notable accomplishment and, I think, part of the appeal of the series. You can really feel the growth of the characters.
Our kids are currently 9 and 11. The perfect age to start reading the first book. The problem is, our guys started (with the audiobooks) when they were 7 and 9 and within a year they had listened to the first four books. As of last year they had listened to everything through book 6 – multiple times.
As far as following the story, they’re fine. I’m sure they’ll go back to the books at some point in their adulthood and catch details that they don’t really grasp at this point but they enjoy it immensely nonetheless. Events like Dumbledore’s “murder” are shocking and sad but I’m not sure they’re getting the full poignancy of the events. We have also made a conscious effort to prevent them from barreling ahead with the audiobook for Deathly Hallows. They are welcome to read the book but certain events in the last book are definitely intended for an older audience. Thanks to their friends at school they already know all about who dies and who wins in the end. Knowing just those cursory details they say they’re fine to go on with the story but the trick is, some of the characters who die in the last book are their favorites. They may understand that Fred dies but reading the prose that surrounds that event gives it an emotional impact better suited for a young adult to process.
Luckily for us, the kids have agreed that it’s ok for them to wait to read the last book. I think they got the idea from book 6 that there’s stuff happening in the story that’s just too grim for their enjoyment and, for now, they’re going to stick with the earlier, happier, younger stories.
This way they get to anticipate the day when they’ll be ready to read the last book and finally find out not just how it ends but how the story reaches it’s proper conclusion.
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John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.