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Don't Tell Me! Avoiding 'Harry Potter' Spoilers


Six days and counting until the new and final Harry Potter book arrives in bookstores. The hype around the release of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is full of speculation about how the book will end, especially about whether Harry will survive.

As NPR's Lynn Neary reports, young readers who like to take their time with the book may have to go into hiding to avoid finding out what happens prematurely.

LYNN NEARY: There's a "Harry Potter" survey at, a Web site devoted to books for children and teens. Among the questions on the survey: Do you plan to read "Harry Potter" as soon as possible or are you not rushing it?

Carol Fitzgerald, founder of the Web site, says the response from more than 3,000 kids was overwhelming. Eighty-four percent say as soon as possible.

Ms. CAROL FITZGERALD (Founder, And they think that it will take them two days to read it. So, a 784-page book, I take it no chores are happening around those houses for a couple of days.

NEARY: With so many so eager to read the book, Fitzgerald says, the ending won't stay secret for long.

Ms. FITZGERALD: This is like the Super Bowl. You know, how you try to avoid seeing the scores if you didn't watch the game but it's everyplace? I just see with the Internet, newspaper, television, radio, everything out there right now, this is going to come out and it's going to come out quickly.

Unidentified Woman #1: I can run a search.

Unidentified Woman #2: Okay.

Unidentified Woman #1: Let's see what we can find.

NEARY: At Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., a group of avid young readers gathered the other night to talk about the end of "Harry Potter." Ranging in age from 12 to 17, they've read all the "Harry Potter" books and are eagerly awaiting the new one. Most of them say they read books quickly. But 15-year-old Jacob Horn(ph) says usually he likes to take his time.

Mr. JACOB HORN (Resident, Washington, D.C.): With a book that I really like, sometimes when I'm close to the end, I will start to go with that faster speed. But most of the time I'm sort of afraid of finishing it because I don't want to be done with it if it's a book that I'm liking.

NEARY: Okay, we've got the last "Harry Potter" book coming, does anybody want to savor it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: You're all going to rush right through it?

Mr. HORN: Probably.

Unidentified Woman #3: Probably.

Unidentified Woman #4: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: Probably, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: If for no other reason, I just know that if I don't read this book as quickly as possible, I'm going to go outside and someone's going to say so how about the end of the book? I mean, wasn't it cool how X died? I mean, it always happens. So I'm going to rush through it whether I want to or not.

NEARY: Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Bush(ph) and 14-year-old Jordy Laura Hobs(ph) say a lot of people are going to try very hard to shut out news about "Harry Potter."

Ms. CHARLOTTE BUSH (Resident, Washington, D.C.): I'm in a play the next - the night after it comes out and we have a rule saying no discussing the book backstage. Like you can bring your copy backstage but you can't talk about it.

NEARY: Do you think there's any way to avoid finding out what happens if you...

Ms. JORDY LAURA HOBS (Resident, Washington, D.C.): Actually, my mom - she works at Politics & Prose, she said she saw a lot of customers who got their vouchers and who said as soon as I get the book, I'm going home, closing the blinds, turning off the phone, turning off the TV and everything else, and I'm locking the door until I finish reading the book.

NEARY: Twelve-year-old Erin O'Brien(ph) is not happy about the timing of the book's release. She'll be on vacation in a small town in Minnesota when it comes out.

Ms. ERIN O'BRIEN (Resident, Washington, D.C.): There's like one tiny bookstore and it's all like classic old books. And I leave, like, in the afternoon of the 20th, which is like totally unfortunate and I get back on the 27th, so I'm going to have to wait all the way until the 27th to get the "Harry Potter" book and I'm like, so depressed.

NEARY: Still, Erin says, it's better than what happened to her little brother, who's just starting to read the series.

Ms. O'BRIEN: My next-door neighbor, who's my really close friend, she decides to tell my brother two nights ago that...

NEARY: No, we won't do it. We won't tell you what Erin's friend told her younger brother about what happens to Sirius Black in the fifth book because, as Erin says...

Ms. O'BRIEN: Way to ruin it.

NEARY: After all there's a whole new generation of "Harry Potter" readers out there who are thumbing their way through picture books as we speak and we're not about to ruin it for them.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.