Shortly after the clock strikes midnight on Saturday, you just might hear squeals of delight echoing from all corners of the suburbs.
The reason: The final "Twilight" book will be out.
The "Twilight" books, which chronicle the romance between a 17-year-old girl and a handsome vampire, have quietly become the hottest publishing phenomenon since a certain bespectacled wizard cast his spell on the world.
More than 7 million copies of the books are in print. Fans engage in passionate discussion of the series on numerous Web sites. And a movie adaptation of the first book, "Twilight," will hit theaters this December.
"I see a lot of the same passion in 'Twilight' fans as I did in Harry Potter fans," said Jan Dundon, children's coordinator at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. "It's amazing, because I thought we'd never see anything like Harry Potter ever again, but this is coming close."
The fourth and final chapter in the series, "Breaking Dawn," will hit bookstores at 12:01 a.m. Saturday with an initial print run of 3.2 million, the largest first printing in publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers' history.
To celebrate, stores all over the suburbs will hold late-night release parties on Friday. And like the Potter parties, the events will draw tweens and adults alike. Friends Rhonda Drugon and Faith Bianco, who work together at Forbici Salon and Spa in Arlington Heights, say they're going to a prerelease party in Deer Park.
"We're total 'Twilighters,'" said Bianco, of Palatine. "We've read and reread the books three or four times already."
The "Twilight" books are the brainchild of 34-year-old author Stephenie Meyer. The main characters are Bella, a 17-year-old everyteen who's just moved to the Pacific Northwest, and Edward, a boy in her school who happens to be a vampire.
The two fall in love, even though Edward can barely resist the urge to, you know, do what vampires do. That tension - true love mixed with mortal danger - drives the series.
The books are huge with young adult readers, especially girls.
"It's a really big thing right now," said Roxy Dudovitz, a 14-year-old from Deerfield who will start her freshman year at Stevenson High School in the fall.
Dudovitz wasn't blown away the first time she tried reading "Twilight," but then her twin sister, Shawna, started raving about it.
"I actually found the beginning to be a little slow," she said. "But when my sister told me how great it was, I tried again, and I absolutely loved it. So then I got the next two and read them, too."
Dundon said that while the books were written for a younger audience, they've struck a chord with a wide range of readers, even some men.
"A lot of adult book groups are choosing them," she said. "I hear from people as old as 64 who absolutely love the books."
So what about the "Twilight" series has readers so mesmerized? Fans say it's the use of a classic dramatic trope that dates all the way back to Shakespeare: star-crossed lovers.
"The relationship between Edward and Bella, the connection they have, is really well-done," Bianco said. "It reminds me of love stories like 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Wuthering Heights.'"
Rolling Meadows resident April Butler agreed. Butler is a mom whose children - ages 13, 15 and 20 - also love the books.
"It's the most adoring love story I've ever read," she said.
The vampire aspect is another draw, even for those, like Butler, who have never liked such stories in the past.
"I'm surprised at how fascinated I've been about the vampire part of the story," she said.
Fans are quick to point out that the books, whose covers feature eerie black, white and red artwork, are not violent or dark. Bianco, who is also a fan of Anne Rice's vampire novels, said the "Twilight" books read like a Disney version of those.
"I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that 'Twilight' is more about love and personal connection than it is about the dark side of vampires," she said. "And even when a darker character is introduced, (Meyer) will give that person a twist that makes you look at them differently."
As eager as fans are to read "Breaking Dawn," some expressed sadness that the "Twilight" story is about to end. Easing their pain a bit is the upcoming "Twilight" movie, which opens in December. The movie received a big push at Comic Con International in San Diego this past weekend.
"Oh yes, we're definitely excited about the movie!" said Drugon, a Mount Prospect resident. "That's going to be another midnight event, for sure."
'Breaking Dawn' events
Prerelease parties at suburban bookstores will help fans celebrate the arrival of "Breaking Dawn," the fourth chapter in the wildly popular "Twilight" saga. Here are a few options:
Anderson's Bookshop: Anderson's will host prerelease parties at both the Naperville and Downers Grove stores starting at 9 p.m. Friday. Trivia games, music and a design-your-own-prom-dress contest will be among the activities, and the fun will go right up through the release of "Breaking Dawn." Tickets required. Go to www.andersonsbookshop.com.
Borders: Participating Borders stores will host prerelease parties that start at 9:30 p.m. Friday. There will be a "Supernatural Soiree" costume contest, a trivia contest featuring questions supplied by the editors of the Twilight Lexicon fan site and more. Go to Borders' Web site to find a participating store near you.
Barnes & Noble: Barnes & Noble stores all over the suburbs will host prerelease parties that start at 9 p.m. Friday and culminate in the sale of the book after midnight. Check www.barnesandnoble.com to find a "Breaking Dawn" events in your area.