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

(Spoilers through book 6.)

I am finally ready to admit that Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite of all the Harry Potter books. Let the stoning begin.

Okay, so, let me explain myself. Remember how much I loved Goblet of Fire? I took it on my honeymoon! I read it as a happy newlywed! Well, we had to wait three years for Order of the Phoenix. Three years! Three years of analyzing Goblet of Fire, of talking it to death, and then, finally, we got our hands on Order of the Phoenix. Mike and I both took the weekend off, and we read it at the O. Henry over tea, on our front porch, on the couch, and, finally finished it Monday night. I had a very sore throat (that would later become mono), so Mike did most of the reading on this one. And maybe that’s part of why I don’t love it as much. But here are three other reasons:

1. Nothing happens in this book. I mean, lots of little things happen, like Umbridge and the DA and Sirius dying and Harry being completely miserable throughout, but . . . the book doesn’t build to anything. Remember how we had three years to discuss Goblet of Fire? Well, I had already pretty much guessed that Trelawney’s first prophecy had to do with Harry, that he was possibly some kind of messiah-figure who would take down Voldemort. And . . . that’s essentially what the prophecy said. The big reveal was a huge letdown. But, seriously, at the end . . . Dumbledore and Voldemort fight, and . . . nothing happens. Voldemort does not take a huge step forward, nor does he have a huge setback. It’s . . . very anticlimactic.

2. Speaking of anticlimactic, the publisher revealed some text to tantalize us before OotP came out, and one passage had Dumbledore saying, “Harry, sit down. I am going to tell you everything.” Mike and I thought this was hilarious, and, as we read it out loud, we kept having Dumbledore randomly enter the room and tell Harry to sit down, because he was going to tell Harry everything, but, of course, the reveal doesn’t come until the very end. AFTER Dumbledore fights Voldemort. So there wasn’t even any suspense for us in that scene, because of the stupid publisher.

3. Umbridge. Enough said, I suppose. Reading this book makes me aware that I will never be a really good writer, because I hate putting my characters in uncomfortable positions. I squirm every time Harry has a class with the Slytherins. I get so sick of Snape’s cruelty. And there aren’t really words for how much I loathe Umbridge.

Are you ready for my thoughts about this book? Oh, they are extensive. I made a lot of notes on this one.

-Molly Weasley is so going to die before the series is over. Mike thinks I’m wrong, but here is my reasoning: Harry has lost his parents, and then his godfather/father/brother figure, and then another father figure. In this book, Molly says Harry is as good as her son, thus sealing her own fate. She’s the only mother figure Harry has known, really. Plus, Arthur has been hurt, Bill has been attacked, no one would really care about Percy, I think Ron and Ginny will survive, and that leaves the twins and Molly and Charlie. Charlie’s kind of a non-entity, and I think Molly’s death would have more emotional resonance than if Fred and George (or even just one of them) died. And we all know at least one Weasley has to kick the bucket. My money’s on Molly. (And, oh, do I want to be wrong.) (This also takes into account that I think Hagrid is going to live, which Mike also disagrees with. Hagrid = alive. Molly = dead.)

-I don’t find angsty teenage Harry as annoying as some people do, given that he’s never had any parents, he grew up with people who hate him, he saw a friend die and Voldemort come back, and no one has given him any information. I love that he takes it out on Ron and Hermione – JKR said in an interview that she got a lot of letters from kids/teens saying, basically, “Why does Harry yell at Ron and Hermione? I yell at my parents, but I’d never yell at my friends like that.” Well, exactly. He’s got nobody else. They are his family. I like that he trusts them that much, and that they know when to let him yell and know when to stand up to him. The only time I get irritated with him is during the Occlumency, because he’s not really even trying. But I get MORE irritated with Snape, who is goading him and giving him no real instructions. Worse than useless.

-This is an ongoing irritation of mine, and could more accurately have been put in my discussion of Goblet of Fire, but why do wizard families seem to care so little about Christmas? Don’t Hermione’s (Muggle) parents miss her? They don’t care that she’s cutting her ski trip short to hang out with friends? Nobody in the whole school’s parents said, “I don’t care about a stupid Yule Ball, you’re coming home and that’s final?” Even without the spiritual aspects, I think of Christmas as a family time. It’s nice that Ron always gets to spend the holiday with Harry, but . . . it’s also fairly unbelievable. hehe.

-After reading the book, I am even more incensed about Grawp. I find Hagrid fairly tiresome under normal circumstances, but when he’s bringing his giant half-brother back and asking Hermione and Harry to take care of him, well, that irritates me beyond measure. The only thing that Grawp does in this story is save Harry and Hermione from the centaurs after Umbridge has caught them in her office. Surely we could give that up in the movie in favor of Christmas on the Closed Ward. Plus, Grawp interferes with Ron’s triumphant Quidditch scene. I get that she’s tired of writing about Quidditch. I am tired of reading it. But to give Ron, who has so little, the shaft so that we can go meet Hagrid’s stupid half-brother . . . well, that just seems like poor form to me. I, for one, would have loved to have seen Ron’s moment of victory.

-Speaking of the movie, this was the first time I have ever pictured a scene from the movie while reading the book. In the very beginning, when the owls were arriving at the Dursleys’, I could “see” Daniel Radcliffe yelling at Petunia and Vernon. I quickly banished those thoughts from my mind. My own imagination is quite good enough, thankyouverymuch. I don’t need the movie to tell me how they think it ought to look. Although, after reading this book, I must admit that, if this movie is done well, I could really enjoy it. I get so tired of the length of this one – if the movie condenses a lot of the more tiresome aspects of the story, I could actually find myself enjoying it.

-Except for that whole “cutting Christmas on the Closed Ward from the movie” thing. That is, by far, my favorite scene in this book. So let me talk about Neville for a second. He is my favorite secondary character (woe unto you, people who like Hagrid. WOE), and I love his journey in this book, watching him resolutely learn how to fight the people who tortured his parents, gaining confidence and ability throughout the book.

-I get fairly irritated with Sirius and his arrested development in this story. But one thing I noticed this time through is that in Goblet of Fire, Sirius says that the way that people treat those under them is important (re: Mr. Crouch and Winky). And yet, in this book, he’s fairly horrible to Kreacher (who is fairly horrible as well, but that is not the point). I found that interesting, and fairly accurate as far as human behavior goes, as much as it disappoints me.

Overall, this book just doesn’t do it for me. There are a lot of really nice touches with the DA and Harry’s first kiss and the setup for Regulus and the locket and Neville and, oh, all kinds of things, but . . . it’s a dark book, and hard to read. It’s full of questions that still seem unresolved at the end. Now, it’s on to Half-Blood Prince, for some answers (and some more very complicated questions).

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