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July 23, 2007

 

Australia's Potter craze

 

By Madeleine Slaughter

BERWICK, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA - Though they’re separated from the rest of the world by oceans, Australia’s teenagers are no exception to the Harry Potter craze sweeping the world by storm.

Fifteen year-old Morgan Ferguson of Berwick, Victoria, says Australian Harry Potter fans “are no different” than they are anywhere else.

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Aussie Potter fans “might be catching a ride on … kangaroos down to the bookstore to buy our new copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as soon as we can muster up the money,” Ferguson said, but that doesn’t mean they love the teen wizard less or differently than the rest of the world.

Cynics of Harry Potter were far and few between, hiding away in unknown places nowhere near bookstores with the advertising posters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to avoid being swamped by the immense and enveloping Harry Potter commercialism.

Corey Bobbermein, 18, of Newcastle, New South Wales, said with many teenagers choosing other ways of spending their time, it’s reassuring to know that the younger generation is reading and enjoying books.

“It’s great because kids are actually reading books with this obsession,” Bobbermein said.

Some teens, like Ferguson, say Harry Potter has influenced their lives, by either bringing them closer to family through the reading of this novel or introducing the reader to the wide world of books.

The influence is positive, “apart from sore eyes if it’s 1 a.m,” said Ferguson, a student at St. Margaret’s School in Berwick.

While some fans of the delightful Mr. Potter may agree that it’s a little extreme to camp outside bookstores in all sorts of weather waiting for the latest release, others happily count the days, enjoying the obsession.

“It’s nice to be able to look forward to something so silly yet so enjoyable,” said Ferguson.

Not all fans endure the wait in line, though.

“Not many people camp outside the bookstores,” said Meredith Hall, 15, of Berwick. “Most pre-order!”

Many people would consider not having read a Harry Potter book the most utter disgrace, but not Peter Schembri, a 15-year-old from Narre Warren, Victoria.

Schembri, who attends Haileybury College, said he “tried reading all the books … got about two chapters in, and realized that it isn’t as breathtaking as people are thinking.”

Those who detest Harry Potter aren’t usually as vocal about it as those who adore him.

“There is nothing all that special about it,” said ex-Briton Shemona Rozario, 14, a student at St. Margaret’s School in Berwick.

“I mean, there are many more excellent books out there that aren’t hyped up,” Rozario said.

Rozario questioned why this particular series should have all the glory and fame when there are other modern novels written which are better yet have not received the devotion and attention the Harry Potter books have.

“Better books have been written,” Rozario said.

Schembri likened the Harry Potter hype to crazes for UGG boots, mobile phones and keeping up with your mates.

But the Harry Potter craze comes from a genuine love for the books, according to Hall.

“The people sitting at their computers on the MuggleNet forums or going out in fan club groups to launches obviously have a real, true love for Harry Potter,” said Hall.

For Jacob Matthews, 16, of Berwick, the Harry Potter books are “an exception,” because he doesn’t usually like to read books.

The books are a “very, very good read,” Matthews said, but said he thinks that the whole craze is weird.

“But everybody to their own,” Matthews said.

Emma Bechaz, 14, of Warragul, Victoria, said she has “been a fan for a very long time.”

Some of the extreme activities of Harry Potter readers are “maybe … a little far,” said Bechaz.

Looking forward to the last book amid speculation that it includes Harry’s death, Bechaz said, “Harry will SO not die!”

Like he has elsewhere around the globe, Harry Potter has and will continue to fill Australian homes, classrooms and schools with controversy.

Even though author J.K. Rowling has said Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be the final escapade of the dearly beloved Harry, he will live on.

The world, including the kangaroo-country-Australia, will continue to love and hate him for generations to come. No one can say that Harry, his comrades and enemies will be easily forgotten.

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