Love to Hate

There’s something to be said for a character who is so vile, so twisted, so amazingly hateable that an entire fan community is able to be in COMPLETE and TOTAL agreement that the character’s demise should be slow and painful.

I’ve been involved in the Harry Potter fan community for a decade, so I know how people can disagree on characters. Everyone’s got an opinion. I love Sirius and Luna, but there are people who find Sirius immature and Luna flat-out irritating. Which is fine. To each his own. So that’s why it’s always amazed me how much the Potter fans can agree so completely on one thing–we all HATE Dolores Umbridge.

In re-reading Order of the Phoenix, I’m reminded just how horrible Umbridge is. She does unthinkable, torturous things and obviously takes pleasure in people’s pain. She’s prejudiced and has an agenda at all times. She purposefully tries to make Harry and the other rebellious students as miserable as possible. She’s just plain mean. She is, simply, the character we all love to hate.

I’d wager a fair guess that Umbridge is more hated than Voldemort (at least he gives interesting monologues).

A couple days ago, this idea was reinforced when I posted a status on Facebook saying how I always remember why I hate Umbridge so much when I read Order of the Phoenix. Within hours, several of my friends had either “liked” the status or made a comment expressing their own severe dislike of Umbridge.

Which got me thinking.

As a reader, I can’t stand Umbridge. I laughed when she got carted off by the centaurs. I grit my teeth when she showed up to Dumbledore’s funeral. I took great pleasure in reading a funny list of the “Top Ten Fates Wished Upon Umbridge,” then printed it off to save forever. I really hate Umbridge. With an undying passion.

As a reader.

As a writer, I’m deeply in awe of the effect Umbridge has on people. I would love nothing more than to be able to write a villain so horrible that he/she gets a similar passionate response from readers. That would pretty much make my life.

First Midnight Book Release

The first time I went to the midnight release of a book–any book–was when Order of the Phoenix came out before my junior year of high school.

The concept of a midnight release was new to me and it seemed magical. The bookworm and nerd in me were both very happy. I don’t remember why exactly, but for some reason none of my friends were able to go to the release. Maybe we didn’t plan anything. Maybe none of us anticipated just how big of a deal it would become.

Whatever the reason, I was on my own for this first midnight release. Almost. My younger sister, Laura, wanted to go too. But there was only one problem: I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. I was only a few weeks out from being able to take my test, so I couldn’t just go with my sister.

This meant our mom had to accompany us.

A few crucial facts about my mom:

1) She’s not big on crowds, and there were bound to be crowds at Media Play, which was where Laura and I had reserved our copies of the book.
2) She’s not big on waiting in lines, at least as far as I can ever tell.
3) She’s not big on being up and out late–she’s more of a fall-asleep-on-the-couch-watching-TV kind of person.
4) She’s not–NOT–into Harry Potter.

So all things considered, I was more than a little surprised Laura and I managed to convince her to go with us. It may have had something to do with the fact I needed more night driving experience with my temporary license anyway. Or maybe my sad, puppy eyes worked. Whatever the reason, Mom agreed (on the condition that we would only leave half an hour before midnight because she was not waiting in line for two hours).

It could be a tribute to Media Play’s dying business that we actually got decent places in line that close to midnight. The second I got that book in my hands, I started reading it. I devoured it. For the next several days of PE summer school, my friend Caitlin and I spent our laps around the track fangirling the book and spouting out theories and analyzing every detail. There was one memorable morning after I’d finished the book, when the first thing I said when I saw Caitlin was “HE SAID ‘IRKED!'” (In regards to a bit of Voldemort dialogue…and I always love Voldemort dialogue.) For months after that, the word “irked” was an inside joke for us.

It wasn’t the grandest midnight release I ever attended. I don’t have pictures from it like I have from others. There weren’t any epic marathons or homemade t-shirts and I’m not even entirely sure I went in costume. But that release, and Order of the Phoenix itself, still hold a special place in my heart for being the first.

Goblet of Fire…and Me

I first started reading Harry Potter the fall after Goblet of Fire (the book) was released. As I’ve said before, I originally refused to read the books, but my friends and two of my aunts were what convinced me otherwise. My friends because there was no escape from their harping. My two aunts becaues they like recommending books to me, rather enthusiastically, when I see them each Thanksgiving. I figured one way or another, I’d be annoyed into reading Harry Potter.

The irony was that it was over Thanksgiving at my one aunt’s house that I finished Goblet of Fire, thus catching up in the series completely. I particularly remember sitting in the corner of the family room, conversations going on all around me, my nose stuck in the book. I was toward the end of the novel. Harry was in the graveyard. I had just gotten to the end of this action-packed chapter–had just read the line “Lord Voldemort had risen again”–when my mom told me it was time to go to bed.

It’s a mark of how invested I was in these stories I swore I would hate that I barely slept that night. I woke up at first light the next morning (something I don’t do) and I resumed my corner in the family room to find out what would happen to Harry.

Goblet of Fire has long been in competition as my favorite Potter book. Perhaps it holds a place in my heart because it was the most recently released when I first fell in love with the series. It’s certainly the book I re-read the most while I waited for Order of the Phoenix to come out. Likely, it’s also the excitement, plot twists, and thrills. Maybe it’s the memory of finishing it over that Thanksgiving. Whatever it is, it was the first Potter book I personally owned. I’ve read it so often that the binding on my hardcover copy is starting to shred and the cardboard shows through in the corners.

This week, I started it again.

The Magic Never Dies

This week, I began to re-read Harry Potter for the last time before a movie comes out. It’s bittersweet, knowing that this is the last time I’ll do this. I’ll always re-read the books, of course, but I’ll never again be doing it with a purpose in mind. So many times I’ve re-read them to get ready for a book release or a movie release, but after this summer, that’ll all be over.

I’ve been keeping a journal of thoughts as I’ve done this. Perhaps that sounds a little overkill, but I can’t help it. These stories have been a dear part of my life for more than a decade. So here’s the first of my thoughts as I’ve been reading.

The first time I read Sorcerer’s Stone, I was thirteen-years-old. It was fall of 8th grade. My friends had badgered me for months to pick up the book and they’d finally worn me down. I sat at a table in our middle school library and started to read.

At the time, I couldn’t tell you what sucked me in. I’m still not entirely sure. Perhaps it was the idea of such an ordinary boy being something more. Perhaps it was the witty writing or the intriguing plot. Perhaps it was simply the magic.

Whatever it was, it hooked me. And not long after, it hooked my sister too when I insisted I read the books to her each night as she cleaned her hamster’s cage. Then it hooked other friends who came into my life. The stories were intoxicating.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I read this first book, or any of the others. I’m still just as invested as the first time. I know what happens, could probably quote the story verbatim, and can find any tiny detail in the book at the drop of a hat, but I’ll still stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading, like I’ve never read the book before. It will still nag the back of my mind as I do other things. When I’m reading it, even if it’s for the twentieth time, I still can’t put it down.

That is, I think, the true magic of Harry Potter–that the magic never seems to dissipate at all.