No letting go for generation that grew up with Harry Potter and his pals

Published: Thursday, July 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Tyrell Careter, Kylie Haws, Adam Moyer and Sarah Walker work on creating magic wands out of hot glue at a Harry Potter themed party in Payson on Wednesday.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Looking back, Trisha Deem is pretty sure she made it through the cruel misery of junior high school because of three special friends: Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.

"In junior high, like Hermione, I was an insufferable know-it-all who didn't really have friends. She found her Ron and Harry who accepted her as she was. I knew I could find mine. So I read the books over and over again. ... It was honestly because I could get lost in the world of Harry Potter that I made it through junior high," said Deem, 21, of Sandy, who cried when she finished the seventh and final Harry Potter book.

Welcome to the moments leading up to the last chapter of the wizardly saga. The last book was long ago devoured by Harry-hungry fans. This week marks the release of the final movie in the series, which is more than just a great bit of fantasy fiction, say those who have grown up with it. It's a love story. And a coming-of-age saga. And a look at the ageless battle between good and evil.

Kimberly Gardner, 27, started reading the stories a couple of years after the first one came out. Now 27 and living in the D.C. Beltway, the former Orem resident said the books' message resonates more now than ever. "It's a politically charged atmosphere here a lot. I think there's something when you start reading books like these and see people coming together, working together for the common good. There can be horrible things going on in the world, but there are always people who hope for a better future and continue to have families and celebrate good things in life even if people around them are crumbling. It says we have the ability to make the world a better place."

It's also a great excuse for a party. So Lexi Richards, 20, of Midvale, is putting last-minute touches on her Luna Lovegood costume and wrestling with getting her hair to dye to the exact milky-shade of the pale character. Caitlin Banks, 18, of Spanish Fork has spent weeks with friends planning a night-before-the-premiere party. They also rented two Provo theaters for later so they'll be able to watch the show with all their friends and family. At the party, they were planning to wear costumes and mix potions and make Potter-related T-shirts and wands.

Christopher Amundsen, 26, of Sandy, is in the process of moving to Phoenix over the weekend, so he's going to miss the revelry. But the Potter series has been something he's loved for years. His grandmother, he said, has become blind and they got the Potter books on tape. "It seems at some point during the week, there's a Harry Potter tape on at our house, whether she or I or someone else is listening to it. It has been a good, fun ride for me. Reading them has been an escape from reality, an opportunity to be entertained and forget about what you've got going on. You can lose yourself and focus on something outside yourself."

He was sad when he finished the final book, he said. "J.K. Rowling built these characters up so well and you like them and know them, then they graduate school and it's the end. But they've got to grow up and move on and do something else. So do we all. You want a good story to have a big finish. Had it carried on, it would not have had that."

"My generation grew up with it, going through the same things, just without the magic part," says Chelsey Gensel, 22, Logan. "It has a way of bringing people together. It's about love and friendships and faith and community. There's a huge subculture and it's super nerdy, but it's really important, too. It has given an outlet and sense of community and belonging to kids who might not have found that."

She's even gone to Harry Potter conventions. When she was working as a nanny, away from family and friends, she found community among fellow Potter fans, some still close to her now. And she also developed an affection for Wrock — "Wizard rock" — a music genre that's all about Potter adventures and humor and costumes. What's not to love about groups with names like the Moaning Myrtles or Harry and the Potters?

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