The fifth novel in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.< read all 36 reviews
We begin where Harry's adventures always begin; he's safe and miserable at the home of his disgusting relations, longing for the Hogwarts School and anxious for news from his friends. Well, he eventually gets both - no prizes for guessing that bit. This time, significantly, getting back to school and to his friends provides no relief, for several reasons. First, much of the wizarding world thinks he's either crazy or lying about his previous experiences. Second, his adult allies give him little or no information about how much danger he is in, from where, or what they are doing about it. And third, although it is not spelled out, he gets no relief because he's turning into a teenager.
(He's been a technical teenager for a couple of years now, of course, but now he really starts to act like one. Never mind bloodthirsty enemies, horrible relatives and a cowardly Ministry of Magic - becoming a teenager is serious.)
You've heard all the rumors about what happens next, of course. Suffice to say that Harry and his growing corps of buddies spend the next several hundred pages fighting the evil wizard Voldemort, the reactionary elements in the Ministry of Magic, the snobs and thugs in Slytherin House at school, and the usual gang of idiots. Nothing new there. So do you really need to worry that someone will tell you how it all turns out? No, you don't - you already know how it all turns out, that's why you're reading the book in the first place.
Well, that and a few other things, but let's be honest; anyone who reads any popular fantasy series, including Harry Potter, and expects daringly original plotting is a fool. Ms. Rowling is neither a brilliant prose stylist nor a devastatingly original thinker. What she is, more so with each volume in her series, is a teller of rattling good yarns that carry a deep but deftly handled understanding of a young person's psychology.
Why, for instance, is "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" so dark in tone? Because the life of a fifteen-year-old, wizard or not, can be a dark place at times. Let me ask you this: If you, like Harry, were a teenage boy forced to spend weeks and weeks with people you loathed, after suffering dreadful losses at the hand of someone who hated your every cell and was still out and about, and after you had unequivocally shown several times how brave and skillful you were - how would you react if every adult in your life said "Just sit tight, dear, you wouldn't understand anyway, you let us handle it"? You'd be an angel of light, would you?
I don't think so, buddy. On the other hand, if you, like Harry, have a normal level of decency, you would not throw temper tantrums every five minutes, either. You would behave as Harry does here - you would struggle against bitterness and frustration, you would try to be kind to your friends, and once in a while you would lose it and nail everyone in sight right between the eyes.
All of this is right on target, as anyone knows who has raised an adolescent boy, had dealings with an adolescent boy, or been an adolescent boy. What's more, Harry in this book must contend not only with a highly pressurized attempt to grow up, but also with the true unpolished memory of his father, the mysterious minds of girls, and his role as a leader - to say nothing of the ongoing threats to his life and sanity. All of those, except the last (I wish), fall to the lot of every maturing teen. People wonder why Ms. Rowling's books get thicker with every passing Hogwarts year? Well, so does the life of an adolescent.
I cannot agree with those who gasp with delight at every Harry Potter development or trumpet the series as the best of all time, hence I must give "Order of the Phoenix" four stars rather than five. (I should add that, although I actually consider "Goblet of Fire" the best Potter story to date, it outdoes "Order of the Phoenix" by only a hair's breadth.) On the other hand, I re-read the first volume not long ago, and as good a read as it was, it was pretty formulaic as compared with "Phoenix". Like I said, Ms. Rowling improves fast, and her series has indeed developed into something that approaches the unique. As a teacher, I would stop worrying about any young person who loves Harry Potter - such a youngster has a brain and a heart, very good news considering how popular these books have become. And who knows - if I were 15 years old and reading this story for the first time, from the pen of a writer who really seemed to understand what I was going through, maybe I really would say it's the best series of all time.
Benshlomo says, Fantasy - it isn't just for babies anymore.
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The fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series follows the darkest year yet for our young wizard, who finds himself knocked down a peg or three after the events of last year. Somehow, over the summer, gossip (usually traced back to the magic world's newspaper, the Daily Prophet) has turned Harry's tragic and heroic encounter with Voldemort at the Triwizard Tournament into an excuse to ridicule and discount the teen. Even Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of the school, has come under scrutiny by the Ministry of Magic, which refuses to officially acknowledge the terrifying truth that Voldemort is back. Enter a particularly loathsome new character: the toadlike and simpering ("hem, hem") Dolores Umbridge, senior undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, who takes over the vacant position of Defense Against Dark Arts teacher--and in no time...