What if there were no Harry Potter?

Friday, May 30, 2014

I have been thinking a lot about the world of Harry Potter. I want so desperately to reread the series, but my ever growing TBR pile will not let me take on that 3K-4K page venture. Instead, I decided to write a post about the effects of Harry Potter on the literary world and add a few awesome facts!

I'm not going to bog you down with the statistics, which you can check out here and here, but the effect that Harry Potter has had on the literary world is significant, I can tell you that much if you don't want to check out the stats for yourself!

They are calling it the Harry Potter Literacy Phenomenon. Boys and girls alike flocked to these books (and are still flocking). It made a way for children books (a market that was said not to hold any true merit) to completely rework not only publishing companies and their marketing strategies, but also the face of YA as we know it. Am I the only person that thinks that is really cool? I mean to be able to see something like that in your lifetime is pretty awesome!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the British title) came out in the summer of 1997 after having been rejected by London publishers 12 times! I bet those publishing companies were banging their heads against the wall after realizing what a massive mistake they made.
When Bloomsbury finally picked it up, it was published with only a 500 copy run, because it wasn't expected to sell as well as it did later that year. Eventually, Bloomsbury picked up for another run of copies as did Scholastic who became the publisher for the American editions.

Soon, Harry Potter was sold at every single bookstore in England and America (and I'm sure many other countries), and people were scouring the shelves and flooding the stores when the release dates came for the later books in the series. Children would line up with family members and friends to be the first to pick up a first edition of this astoundingly successful series.

I would also go so far as to say that it affected literacy in general. It made children want to read, and this series was where their reading journey began. Statistics say that children were more likely to pick up books in the future after having read Harry Potter.

Success, in my opinion is a relative term, but concerning Harry Potter, there is no doubt that this was a success in almost every way possible. This story touched on a variety of topics such as friendship, love, loss, discrimination, censorship, good vs. evil (and sometimes gray areas as well), prejudice, truth and honesty, etc. All this while putting it in a form for children to read. However, it did not just affect children. It affected teenagers, adults, and even senior citizens. It changed the masses. It brought people to tears, it taught everyone to empathize with these characters, and in turn helped them to empathize with each other.

I would argue that empathy is one of the main goals of a book, but even further Harry Potter drew everyone together --even families. This allowed reading to actually be a fun event that had virtually no radioactive fallout. It was positive, and made reading fun for once -in a generation that absolutely hated reading.

The YA genre was just getting comfortable when Harry Potter came out. The YA genre didn't officially take root until the 1980's, but it didn't really begin to take off until Harry Potter came out. This alone changed the face of not only reading, but most especially the YA genre as a whole. Children, teens, and adults could be found everywhere pulling out the latest Harry Potter book. I even remember one of my teachers in high school saying they wished Harry Potter came out during the school year, because they could imagine how quiet it would be since everyone would be reading.

Before I turn questions towards you guys, I want to tell you how much Harry Potter has affected me as a reader. I wasn't allowed to read the series as a child for reasons my parents set, but they said that once I was 18, it was my choice to read them, and read them I did. It was the summer after my senior year and I devoured them. All I did was eat, sleep, and read Harry Potter -no lie! 

Harry Potter was not a home-run book for me (or the book that made me become a reader -that privilege belongs to Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet and Holes by Louis Sachar), instead I read these as a teenager verging on adulthood. I read them through the eyes of a know-it-all teenager who still really wasn't sure what in the world she was doing, but something about these books made me remember what it was like to be 11 or 12 years old. It reminded me of the blind faith I had in people, and the idea that people were inherently good. Then as Harry Potter aged, I aged once again. I was the angsty new teenager who wanted to be by myself more than hang out with people. And then as Harry Potter grew up even more, so did I. I became a girl who would do anything for her friends and the people I loved. 

After finishing this series, I can say that there had only been a handful of instances that drew me so desperately to a book and its characters. I can't tell you how many times I cried reading Harry Potter. At 4am, the tears would come and they wouldn't stop when certain characters died. Believe me, I was ugly crying. At one point I even screamed and woke my sister up -true story!
Though I will say my crying is not near as pretty as Emma Watson's 

I felt so deeply for these characters, their quests, and their dreams that they became my own. And that's why I love Harry Potter.

Now on to the question: What if there were no Harry Potter? And JK Rowling had never written about a little wizard who lived in a cupboard under the stairs? How would the book industry, YA genre, or even you as a reader be different without it?

What are your thoughts and opinions?

Feel free to write posts on your blog if you want to answer these questions in length. Just comment with a link, so others can see it too!

*All the gifs used above do not belong to me.


6 comments:

  1. The book industry might be different, but it's hard to say whether the children's book category would've been substantially smaller. If it hadn't been Harry Potter, it might've been something else that triggered the reading feeding frenzy. It seemed like the reading public was just ready for a big phenomenon. (Harry Potter is not entirely original, anyway; Jane Yolen's Wizard's Hall came out years earlier and bears some striking similarities to the Harry Potter series... it just didn't take off in the same way).

    I've always thought of Harry Potter as middle grade reading, anyway. You can give the first few books to a child; you can't really say the same about Twilight (or any of the other popular series that are firmly in the YA category).

    As for how Harry Potter changed me as a reader... I don't think he did. I was already an adult reading YA and MG by the time the first books came out, and I never really got caught up in all the hype. (I only own two of the books: a paperback of book 1 and a hardcover of book 7... and I didn't stand in line for either of them.) It's not my favourite series at all, though I did enjoy the first three books. If there had been no Harry Potter, I still would have been a reader.

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    1. Thank you for your input and writing such a thoughtful comment! I think it really matters at what age you read these books. I wouldn't say mine was the perfect timing, but it was still good. But there are other series that I read at the perfect moment -the ones that will stick with me forever, but when I go back to reread them, they don't have the same effect on me because I'm in a different place in my life! :)

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  2. Without HP, the YA genre would get trashed even more because of well, the Twilight series. I know, those books made a lot of readers out of non-readers but those books don't receive the same amount of love as HP does. I always loved reading so I would have kept on reading even without the HP books. I didn't even know that HP existed until a Sister at my church bought me the first two books because she heard I love to read.

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    1. Yeah... I mean who wants Twilight representing YA lit... There's so much more to it! Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!

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  3. I definitely agree that Harry Potter widely influenced the children and YA literary world. Without it - who knows? Maybe those areas of fiction wouldn't be as amazing as they are right now. Or maybe another book or series would have opened the doors - I guess we'll never know.
    But I love what you said about Harry Potter bringing families together. I think that's one of the great things about the series. Kids can read it as they grow up, teens can read it and still relate, and adults can read it, too. It's not confined to children's or YA fiction; it appeals to people of all ages. And I really think it takes a special book to do that.

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    1. That's my favorite things about the books too! I didn't mention this in my post (but I should have). But my grandmother and I bonded over them a lot the summer that I read them. She was the only one in my family who owned and read them. Her daughter (my mother) didn't allow us to read them when we were younger, so having that tie with my grandma was really special. She ended up giving me her full hardcover set after I finished all of them, because I had borrowed the books from friends. :)

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