By Heather Gois
I’ll be honest: I find it hard to talk about the Harry Potter novels. Or the Harry Potter fandom. They are just too dear a part of my childhood; too precious a piece of my adolescence. I still can’t look back on them without getting emotional. So, even though Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, marked a day special to any hardcore Potter fan, I’m not going to talk about Harry Potter. I just can’t. I can’t go into the way that the series gave me a port in the storm during the more painful and isolated moments of growing up, or became a safe place for my mind and heart to rest when it was feeling more beaten and brutalized than any spirit that young really should. I can’t talk about the fact that the books came into my life at just the right time, carrying with them exactly what I needed to make that stretch of life’s road a little smoother, a little sweeter. I can’t mention that, even after fifteen years and thousands of other books, the craftsmanship, depth of character, and artful storytelling that the Potter novels represent are still the secret standard that I quietly aspire to in my own art. I can’t admit that I look back on them as a kind of God-send.
So, I won’t talk about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Instead, I’ll talk about what an artfully crafted book can do when it gains access to an unsuspecting heart.
In the fifteen years since a certain history-making series hit the shelves in the United States, scholars, artists, publishing professionals, authors, and journalists have all offered their thoughts on the startling impact and staying power of a modest collection of young adult books. With all due respect to the brilliant and thoughtful minds that have analyzed The Books Which Must Not Be Named from a dispassionate perspective, I have always felt that, in these kinds of conversations, the voices of the fans should carry the most weight.
When it comes to books that I love—especially landmark books that dominate the New York Times bestseller list for ten straight years—the thoughts of the scholars may interest me, but it’s the passion of the fans that touches my heart. I believe that this is true for any book, from The Hunger Games to Game of Thrones , and everything in-between. The voices of readers are the most precious, because they resonate from hearts that have felt the power of fiction in its purest form. Those who possess the ability to fall hopelessly in love with a book understand that a well-crafted collection of pretty lies is capable of encasing, and protecting, precious and powerful truth. It can bestow touches of beauty on the grey moments of life like an unexpected kiss from a long-absent loved one, or leave soft watermarks on the human heart that refuse to fade, even after fifteen years.
So, as much as I would like to acknowledge the recent advent of July 31st with a nod to a book that has truly touched my heart, I simply can’t. I’ll end up sniveling all over my keyboard and generally embarrassing myself. (Slytherins don’t show vulnerability. Tears get you kicked out of the dungeons). So, instead, I’ll say that those of us who have felt the power of beautifully crafted fiction have experienced something real and precious: a resonant, fragile type of joy that hovers in the human heart like a flower petal cupped in your hands against the wind. Those who know what it’s like don’t have to explain it. We just know that, no matter how long they may sit untouched, on the nearest shelf, the books that have weaved themselves into our souls will stay close to us. Always.