Dear J.K. Rowling,
I must, with the upmost sincerity and respect, disagree with you. “All was well. “ You ended an era and, more importantly, my childhood with these three words. “All was well.” Well, as I read the final lines of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I can assure you that all was not, in fact, well.
On July 21, 2007, I anxiously waited in line outside Barnes & Noble for four hours to get my midnight copy of the last Harry Potter book. I was eleven. It’s funny to think that I ended my journey with Harry at the same age he began his in the books. My sister and I stayed up all night listening to my father read us that final book, laughing as put on the same voices for characters that he’d been acting out for nine years. As he read the final pages of the epilogue, I felt the torrential downpour of salty tears flood onto my cheeks. Maybe it was the exhaustion that caused me to cry, but I don’t think that’s it. Exhaustion doesn’t explain why I’m crying while writing you this letter.
I didn’t cry during the epilogue of the last Harry Potter book because of the number of characters you killed off in the final chapters. I didn’t cry as my father read the last lines because I wanted more books in the series. I cried because I realized Harry Potter wasn’t just the fantastical adventure of my childhood; it was also the herald of my maturation. The fantasy wasn’t over, it had just changed settings.
I cried because I learned that “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” You gave Sirius Black this line in book five and later used it in book seven to define Severus Snape, whose transformation from bad guy to antihero shocked anyone reading the series. Although Death Eaters may only be the term for Lord Voldemort’s followers throughout your books, to me they mean so much more. They represent the evil in the world, and in every human being. You’re right, Ms. Rowling, the world isn’t black and white. It is many beautiful and brilliant shades of gray. It isn’t moral versus immoral or righteous versus corrupt. There is good and bad in every human being. Everyone is a Harry Potter at one point and a Death Eater at another. I cried because I recognized that the simple unconditional thinking of my childhood was over. You helped me come to this conclusion. Or rather, you used Sirius Black to introduce me to it, and Severus Snape to drive it home.
I cried as I finished reading about the last of Harry’s adventures because I, at the tender age of eleven, discovered that I wasn’t scared of dying anymore. After all, if Harry could greet “death like an old friend,” so could I. Now, as an eighteen year-old, I don’t want to live life fearlessly. I would rather be like Harry; I would rather take my fear and use it to make something great so that whenever I die, I don’t have to be afraid that I didn’t do something with the life I was given.
I cried because the entire Harry Potter series taught me to love reading. My mother has a Ph.D. in physics in her second language. My father teaches economics at a local college. I was taught to love learning, just not the imaginative kind. With reading, there are no rules. In stories, calculations don’t matter. Physics does not apply in the wizarding world, whose banking system is too complicated for simple economics. I was introduced to an entirely new playing field. Reading fiction was learning made anew. I cried because I realized that my newfound passion for imagination was a direct result of reading Harry Potter. I cried because Harry taught me that learning doesn’t always come from a classroom. Sometimes, it comes from within us.
Until July 21, 2007, I had never cried over a book. No author had managed to move me to tears with only his or her words before I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And really, if I’m being honest, no author has managed it since.
So, Ms. Rowling, all may not have been well during the days after I finished your book, but all is certainly well now. Thank you.