Harry Potter is growing up, but not as fast as some of his fans. There's no denying the series' popularity, with bookstores hosting midnight...
Harry Potter is growing up, but not as fast as some of his fans.
There’s no denying the series’ popularity, with bookstores hosting midnight release parties and Amazon.com boasting more than 750,000 pre-orders for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” slated for release at midnight July 16.
But with seven years elapsing since the U.S. publication of the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” some longtime teenage fans — who started reading the series in first or second grade — say they’re staying out of the frenzy.
“I’ve moved on a little from ‘Harry Potter,’ ” said Seattle resident Hunter Brown, 13, who has read each of the previous books about four times. “For some people, it’s not cool to be a Harry Potter fan. You don’t broadcast it, even if you like the books.”
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With a record-breaking first printing for “Half-Blood Prince” and more than 100 million copies of the series in print in the United States, Harry’s much-vaunted crossover appeal tarnishes his teen cred. Notorious for their fickle preferences, what teen wants to admit being into a book that both little siblings and parents like? Or relishes being told what to read in a multimillion-dollar marketing blitz by Potter publisher Scholastic? Even grocery stores are hawking the book.
“To me, there doesn’t seem to be as much pent-up excitement among their friends as with the last one,” said Wallingford resident Marilyn Nicolai, who is buying a copy each for her kids, Max, 13, and Ava, 11. “That marketing hype, they’re not a part of it. They still really like the books, but for my kids, everything around it is off-putting.”
Little kids wearing round glasses and robes as Harry for Halloween and playing with Hogwarts castle Legos pretty much casts a avada kedavra spell on coolness.
“I know a lot of younger kids seem really hyped about it,” said eighth-grader Max Nicolai. “But the kids I know, not so much. I’m still a bit of a fan, but not as much as I was.
“I’ll definitely read [‘Half-Blood Prince’] and I think I’ll enjoy it, but I’m not waiting in line for it or anything.”
However, Brenna Shanks, teen materials selector for the King County Library System, says all the teens she’s talked to are excitedly waiting for “Half-Blood Prince.” “Harry’s fans are loyal; the fans who started with him are still following his adventures,” she said. “That’s not to say younger children don’t read him, too. It’s just that as the stakes grow higher and the body count climbs, teens are as likely to be fans as children.”
With expanding lengths (the last book, 2003’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” weighed in at 870 pages; the new book is reportedly 672 pages), romantic scenes, major character deaths and a more sophisticated tone, the newer books target 10- to 15-year-olds, rather than the traditional 9-to-12 range, Shanks said. The library system now buys more copies for its teen sections than for children’s.
Kate Macfarlane, 17, who works part time at Ballard’s Secret Garden Bookshop, signed up for the midnight shift next Friday so she can join the bookstore’s party.
After reading the first book in the fifth grade, she and three friends turned her basement into Diagon Alley, complete with decorated refrigerator boxes, homemade robes and marbles substituting for galleons.
All four girls are still into “Harry Potter,” said Macfarlane, who will be a senior at University Prep. “We’re a little bit embarrassed by our Diagon Alley days, but we’re still looking forward to reading [the new book].”
With the younger crowd, “the Harry Potter series is still pretty popular with my group of kids, though definitely not as much as years past,” noted third-grade teacher Jaimy Sohn. “I have one large tub of Harry Potter books, and the kids like to start from the beginning to the very end. They’re always fighting over the next books.”
“Harry Potter” opened up interest in both fantasy books and children’s series, with kids clamoring for additions to “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “Artemis Fowl,” “Pendragon,” and “Charlie Bone.” In the King County Library System, the newest “Harry Potter” has more than 2,000 holds; its nearest competitor is another fantasy, “Eldest,” with about 500 holds. (That sequel to Christopher Paolini’s best-seller “Eragon” is slated for an August release.)
Hilary Craig, a teacher at Issaquah’s Clark Elementary School, read an “Artemis Fowl” book to her fourth-grade class, so that series was more popular with her students. But many have read some or all of the Harry Potter books.
“Most of the students have already seen the movies, so many prefer just to watch [them],” said Sohn, who teaches at Sunny Hills Elementary School in Sammamish.
Fans who are emotionally invested in the characters will continue to read the series regardless of their age, Shanks said.
“Kids who started with the first book and are now in college will still pick up the new one,” she said. “They want to find out what happens.”
Stephanie Dunnewind: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2091.