Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

This review contains SPOILERS.  
I first read the fifth installment of the Harry Potter series when I was 15, almost 16.  I came to the book late in the game.  It came out when I was 12.  It was the summer time, August to be exact, and I began reading the book at an interesting point in my life.  For my 16th birthday I did not have a big sweet sixteen with a bunch of friends.  I invited four or five to my house for a sleepover and we went to my church's carnival to celebrate.  Nothing fancy.  Before we left for the carnival my mom surprised me with my very first cell phone.  It was a flip phone track phone and I loved it.  My parents were strongly against cell phones and I could tell this phone wasn't as nice as the razor all my friends had but I didn't care.  I finally had my own phone.  I bring this small anecdote up because looking back, this was a huge thing in my life.  The memories from that weekend are still strong in my mind and I distinctly remember my new phone being apart of it along with my friends, family and of course, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
After my party my dad, brother and I took a weekend trip up to the Pocono's to stay in a small cabin in the same community my grandparents used to live.  I brought Harry Potter with me.  My grandmom came as well and brought her friend Peggy with her.  All I remember of Peggy is that she loved Bingo and that she constantly commented on my love for reading.  She probably commented so much because I was reading so much.  I was caught reading this book constantly and the truth is, I couldn't put it down.  For the first time I began to realize how amazing this series actually was.  Before this point I had only liked Harry Potter.  Now I was falling in love with the books. 
The entire weekend was fantastic.  Between the nostalgia I felt at being back to the location I had spent so many summers and Christmas's at with my family and my new cell phone and the amazing book I was reading, there was nothing to spoil my happiness.  This is the memory I carry with me when I read this book and it is what I think of when I look at it's spine from time to time on my bookshelf.
Goblet of Fire is truly the turning point of the Harry Potter series, but Harry Potter and the Order of
the Phoenix takes the series to an entirely new level.  It is, in my opinion, the most complex of the series, introducing plenty of new characters, new types of magic, tragedy, and an entirely new plot that ends up tying into the entire series!  This novel also has the best villain, Dolores Umbridge - the "pink" professor we all love to hate.  Her sweetness is so repulsive and it is very reminiscent of Professor Lockhart from Chamber of Secrets.  This book often brings into question "what makes a good educator?" and definitely has something to say about education in general.  Another stand out attribute to this novel is that it is very much a Sirius focused story.  Like it's ring book, Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix focuses on the relationship between Harry and his godfather.  The reader learns a lot about his godfather's family history and sees Harry share many strong bonding moments with Sirius.  Rowling does an excellent job at painting the tragic story of Sirius, the supposed escaped convict who can't do anything to help with the cause to defeat Voldemort and is humiliated in the process.  His death marks another tragedy in Harry's life...as if watching Cedric Diggory die and growing up without parents wasn't enough. 
While many critique this novel for being too dark, too long, and too teenage angst, I disagree.  I don't disagree with the fact that the book is dark, long, and has a lot of teenage angst.  In fact, I believe it is those things that propel this novel forward and set it apart from it's siblings.  Even the later books, while still extremely dark, don't quite measure up to this book in my opinion.  Harry's anger only proves that he is human and what I love is that he isn't the typical hero.  He is weak and flawed, unlike many of the typical heroes we see in fantasy.  Of course Harry isn't the first fantasy hero to be flawed but he was the first in my childhood.  While the book is long, I can't imagine any part of it being taken out.  Each chapter and sentence is essential to the story - whether it be to forward the plot or to develop the world and the characters inside it.  Besides Harry's angst, we also see a lot of sassy Harry in this book (for those who are not acquainted with this side of Harry, you should check him out in Chapter 1 of this book) and I love sassy Harry.
There are a ton of other things I want to mention but that would take forever so I am going to end this review here.  Overall, this book is a solid addition to the Potter series and it's darker tone sheds a new light on how great this series is.  5 out of 5 stars!

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