Dear Straight Talk: Harry Potter was such a sensation for so many young people who grew up on the books and then the movies. I would love to hear what Harry Potter meant to them, and if they think it changed the way they think about the world. -- Cynthia Hartman, Sand City, Calif.
Lara, 20: Harry Potter and I were the same age. We grew up together, starting right when childhood magic and Santa Claus had disappeared. I think it saved me from growing up too fast. Lots of us secretly pretend that the Harry Potter world is real. In our materialistic world, it's important to have magic. The books also address race, religion and corruption. "We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving." -- J. K. Rowling via Kingsley Shaklebolt.
Christina, 19: Harry taught me that evil is the absence of love. I've read the books five times each -- they are new each time.
Akasha, 17: The best thing for me was Harry's evolving understanding of death. I lost a brother right after Book 7 came out. Harry overcame his fear of death by calling his deceased loved ones to surround him with love. Rowling was spot on that people from the other side can be called when you need them. That they're "gone" is an illusion. While I avoid danger, death is no longer something I fear.
Gregg, 20: I read all of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and George R. R. Martin. Harry Potter hooked me from the first sentence. Besides the sci-fi, the books mirrored the social aspects of real high school: sports, girls, fights with friends, ego, image, right and wrong. It was easy to place yourself in a "house" and be part of the story.
Elise, 20: Orlando, Florida: I cannot tell you how much Harry Potter has been a part of my life! The series definitely helped my imagination and creativity. It also played a big role in introducing me to reading. The world holds so much more than we can comprehend. There is definitely magic out there, you just have to find it.
Lennon, 24: Fair Oaks, Calif.: Harry Potter didn't change my worldview. The books are fairytale-like, the characters archetypal. Except for Snape, you can peg a character "good" or "bad" the second they're introduced. Young people got swept up, not unlike during the rise of rock and roll. But Harry Potter doesn't inspire complex thought like "Imagine" or "Satisfaction." It's good overcoming evil, not a youthful cry for change.
Sarah, 19: For five magical years, Harry and I aged at the same rate. I devoured every new installment, rereading previous books multiple times in anticipation. Harry Potter was a phenomenon. It was one of the first series where fans connected on the Internet, growing the movement exponentially through fan fiction other online extensions of J.K. Rowling's universe. Harry served as inspiration and role-model. His unrelenting struggle against evil set a high internal standard for his fans. The brilliant, believable, magical world of Hogwarts made it acceptable to be creative and spurred us to think outside the box. Truly, the masses would be different without Harry Potter.
Dear Cynthia: The books truly were a phenomenon. Almost every member of this generation devoured them multiple times -- many read little else. I'm grateful that in these times of few heroes, even fewer unifying missions, and a dramatic loss of traditional childhood, that this generation was able to grow up with a collective fairytale of good triumphing over evil. Humans crave unified purpose and heroes to inspire them. According to generational theory, this generation is a "hero" generation. Maybe that's why they craved Harry Potter off the charts. --Lauren
To ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit http://www.straighttalkTNT.com.