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It's the end of an era - or is it?
Young adults and teenagers who have grown up following Harry Potter's adventures on the page and screen don't necessarily see this week's premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" as a rite of passage. Many of them said their goodbyes to Harry when the ink-and-paper Deathly Hallows, the last installment in J.K. Rowling's wildly popular series of novels, was published in 2007 amid international hoopla.
Crystal Young-Otterstrom, 30, of Salt Lake City, said she looks forward to the movie - "I love a good summer blockbuster." But "finishing Book 7 was a lot more emotional to me," she said. "The book was a lot more final."
Young-Otterstrom identifies particularly strongly with the boy wizard: They share a birthday (July 31, 1980), and she sees the competing cultural forces of Generation X disillusionment and Millennial activism at work in him as she does in her contemporaries. She remembers staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. reading the last book in the series and "bawling like a baby."
Another fan, Matthew Rude, 21, traveled from Pocatello, Idaho, with his brother Pete for a recent concert by "wizard rock" pioneers Harry and the Potters at the Salt Lake City Main Library. "I'm excited for the movie, and it's going to be weird knowing there is nothing else coming out. But we can always watch them over again."
Then, of course, there are the books. "Whenever I'm in a rut in reading, like I don't have anything to read or I'm not enjoying reading, I'll pick up a Harry Potter to get back into it," said Pete Rude, 24, who wrote his senior thesis on animal-rights issues in the series.
A group of teens and young adults who recently gathered to discuss the Potter phenomenon at Shelley Timothy's Tooele home agreed that the written word reigns supreme in the Potterverse. "It was over when the book came out," said Dallin Taggart, 15 - not that he plans to skip the movie, mind you.
Timothy was a junior-high teacher when the first novels in the series were published, while she now teaches at Tooele High. She recalls how the books ignited students' love of reading - years before the first film adaptation, and even before word-of-mouth turned midnight Potter releases into events that rivaled blockbuster movie premieres. "Kids who never read before were suddenly reading," she said.
Readers who were the same age as Harry and his friends when they read the books often saw themselves in the characters.
"Stuff would happen at school that was similar," said Clay Carter, 21, of Tooele. "Mostly Harry, Ron and Hermione's relationship as friends - I saw that going on, where sometimes you'd be best friends, sometimes you'd hate each other, but it always worked out in the end."
E.J. Jones, 18, also of Tooele, said he couldn't remember another series of books with such broad appeal. "Everybody liked to read them," he said.
And the love of reading didn't end there; Jones and his friends may have re-read the Potter series, but they also moved on to other genres. "It was fun to enjoy them while I was growing up, but I'm not going to base my life around them," Jones said.
Rowling has vowed there won't be any more Potter novels, but there's plenty in the author's rich imaginary world to keep readers engaged for generations to come. In addition to the books, movies and a Potter-inspired theme park in Florida, the author recently announced a new website, pottermore.com, that will serve as a companion to the novels.
"Social networking entirely based around Harry Potter? That's the best idea ever," Pete Rude said. "And J.K. Rowling knows so much more than she's published, so there's always more to learn."
Matthew Rude added: "The fandom is still going strong."
Jessica Hansen, 32, of American Fork, expresses more ambivalence about the end of this chapter. She'll miss the collective enthusiasm that has surrounded each book release and movie premiere. "You can enjoy and return to the books and it's exciting for you, but you're not going through those emotions at the same time, waiting at the library or the bookstore or the theater," Hansen said.
Tribune reporter Chase Hall contributed to this story.
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O Pottermore.com is a new website, set to launch in October, but available to 1 million advance users beginning July 31. It will be the exclusive seller of the e-book versions of J.K. Rowling's novels, which hadn't been available in that format before, and will offer abundant background information from Rowling.