Midnight Release Adventures Part 2

The release of Half-Blood Prince will remain in my memory forever for two reasons.

1. It was the first time I had a Potter party.

Sure, I’d done plenty of celebrating with friends for the movies, but as the movies always came out on school days, and at this time I had only just graduated high school, we’d never gotten to celebrate for an entire day. This was the first time my friends and I could fully geek out and count down the hours to the new book. We watched the movies that had come out on DVD by that time. We ate copious amounts of sugar. We laughed over Bertie Bott’s and threw half of them away because they were flavors none of us was brave enough to try.

We made t-shirts.

This in itself was both amusing and something of a fail. Amusing because we came up with some clever bit to put on each section of the shirts. Fail because Emmy doesn’t know how to tell her right from her left, so the obligatory group pictures turned out hilarious.

This was also the last summer of Media Play. Unlike the release of Order of the Phoenix, my friends I went over early and enjoyed the party over there too. We played trivia games and won points for our houses. Amanda won a stuffed Hedwig in a raffle. We found some of our other friends in line and geeked out with them too. We counted down to midnight, go our books relatively fast, and hurried home to read. While we were in Media Play, though, it had started to storm. Bad. Which leads me to…

2. The death of my “first” car.

I say “first” because it wasn’t technically my car, I just drove it more than anyone else in my family. It was a twelve-year-old Cadillac that was affectionately called The Boat. My friends and I had determined long ago it could probably win a fight against anything.

Ha. Not true.

On the drive hom from Media Play, with the rain dumping and the storm raging, we hit a pothole. The car bumped hard, but we drove on. Emmy, who is prone to panicking, asked, “Did we just get hit by lightening?!” Janet told her no, that she probably wouldn’t need to ask that question if we had, because she would know. We laughed.

Later on release day, after a bit of sleep, I was reading in my room. The storm started again at random. I ignored it and read on. That afternoon, I left for my summer job at Ritter’s. Got in my car. It wouldn’t start.

Long story short, we come to find out The Boat had gotten struck by lightening in that second storm. The stupid lightening missed the tree the car was parked under, struck the raised antenna, and proceeded to fry my car’s electrical system. The lone survivor was the smiley face ball wearing a mortar board that had been perched on top of the antenna. The smiley face ball now has a scorch mark battle scar down his back, but I kept him anyway for the hilarious memory.

All this for one Harry Potter book.

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.

Favorite Potter Character (#1)

I know I usually do a post about what book I’m reading each week on Thursday, but the book I’m reading now I’m actually doing to review for Fiction Flurry. So I don’t want to spoil the fun and say anything here yet. So instead today you get another random Potter post!


Just like everyone else in the world, I have my favorite characters in everything I read.

Lord of the Rings? Aragorn. The Wicked series by Gregory Maguire? Elphaba. Hunger Games? It’s a pretty distinct tie between Cinna and Finnick, but I actually really like Katniss too. Will Grayson, Will Grayson? The first Will Grayson, but Tiny has a special place in my heart too. Prophecy of the Sisters? Lia.

Thinking about it, most of my favorite characters are also the protagonists of said books. Maybe that makes me predictable, but it also makes sense…why read a book if you can’t root for the main character?

And while I definitely root for Harry, he’s actually never been my favorite character in the Harry Potter books. Actually, two of the three characters I count as my favorites aren’t really even in the “starring” cast. They’re definitely important, but there are large gaps between when we see them around.

But I’ll get to them later.

There’s one character in Harry Potter that I’ve adored since the very beginning.

Hermione Granger.

Honestly, I think the reason I was so drawn to her so early on was because it was like reading about myself on the page. She’s kind of nerdy, definitely a know-it-all, a bit of a teacher’s pet. She loves school and reading and books. She’s very logical. When I was in eighth grade, that pretty much summed me up. I was definitely a nerdy, know-it-all, teacher’s pet who loved school and books. That changed a little as I grew older, but for the most part those facets of my personality still remain. Poor Hermione starts off the series as something of an outcast, and just a couple years before I started reading the books, I was an outcast too. The concept of friends I could truly rely on was a relatively new one to me when I started reading Harry Potter.

I even had the out-of-control, dirty blonde hair.

There were times I was compared to Hermione among my group of friends. I’ve dressed up as Hermione more times than I can remember. She’s always been my absolute favorite. I was beyond thrilled when I came to find out that she can be kind of a bad ass when she needs to (giving Malfoy a good slap in Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?). When I’m reading a book, I can’t really deal with the poor-little-me, weak, damsel in distress. Most girls aren’t like that in the real world, why should they be like that in stories? I hate it when the female lead feels like her life is incomplete without the guy. It’s fine if the girl is a little weak, but she has to have some strength in her somewhere, even if she doesn’t realize it at the beginning. These are the characters I like to write, and the characters I like to read.

I think Hermione is one of the most real female leads I’ve ever read. She has her weaknesses and her insecurities, but she can take care of herself. She gets crushes on boys, but it doesn’t run her life. She sometimes needs help, but she’s also perfectly capable of taking control of a situation. She can be annoying, but what person isn’t like that sometimes? She gives Harry and Ron reality checks all the time, but she gets reality checks right back. She’s by no means perfect, which makes her that much more real. Hermione is awkward, uncomfortable with her appearance sometimes, but it’s not the central concern in her life. In my opinion, she’s about as real as a female character can get, which is probably one of the biggest reasons I’ve always liked her so much.

Let the Pottermania Begin

I wouldn’t do it. I refused. For a month and a half during the beginning of eighth grade, I tried to ignore my friends’ insistence that I should. I tuned out their intense conversations in between classes about these people they loved that didn’t actually exist. They debated theories and storylines, and I rolled my eyes.

Not long into this, I came to find out two of my aunts were just as involved as my friends were. And my aunts liked recommending books to me. It’s how I got so immersed in the Dear America series. For several Thanksgivings, I came home with books my aunts thought I’d like. So between my friends and my aunts, I just kind of figured I’d have to do it eventually.

Sometime in October 2000, I gave up. I went to my friend Amanda for help.

“Fine. Tell me which one is first. I’ll read it, but I won’t like it. Then you guys have to drop it.”

We went to the library and she helped me find what I was looking for. I didn’t know which one was first. The only thing I knew about it was what my friends had told me. I was going in completely blind and completely convinced I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t like fantasy or wizards or magic.

After we found the book, I sat down at a table in the library and read the opening of this story so many people loved, but I was sure I would hate. The opening that I would later be able to quote verbatim, because I’d read it so much.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

It was pretty much a downward slope for me after that.

For over a decade, Harry Potter has been at some central point in my life. I first started reading the books after Goblet of Fire was released. In fact, I finished reading the fourth book while I was with the aforementioned aunts that Thanksgiving. Many of my fondest memories are from shared Potter experiences I had with friends. These books essentially defined my teenage years and the stories continue to play a part in my life as an adult.

I tend to re-read the whole series straight through at least once a year. Usually twice. I have yet to do it three times in one year, but I imagine it’ll happen someday.

This July marks the end of an era. The final Harry Potter movie comes out on July 15. There will be no more movies, no more books, no more releases of any kind to use as an excuse to dress up as a favorite character and party with fellow geeks. I was sad when the final book came out a few years ago, but I knew there were more movies to look forward to. Now those will be over too. It’s bittersweet.

But because of this, I’ve been rather reflective lately regarding the last ten years of Pottermania in my life. Over the next months, I’ll be reflecting these points on here. At first, it’s probably going to be a little random, but starting at the end of May or beginning of June, I’ll start to re-read the series again to get ready for the last movie. At which point, I’ll be reflecting on certain moments, certain theories or debates, certain bits of the story, etc. Book by book. Because each book holds special meaning to me. For the last three, I went to the midnight releases. There are specific thoughts I remember having regarding the books or theories around them. There are certain things that happened in my life that relate either directly or indirectly to reading Harry Potter at that time. And, of course, there are certain friends I have that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, certain experiences I’ve had that I wouldn’t have gotten to have.

I feel like, because Harry Potter has held such a spot in my life for so long, it’s long overdue to reflect on all of this. I hope you join me for this ride.