Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Published in 2003
Genre: Fantasy, magical realism
“The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix brings new levels of danger and realization to Harry’s world. Before even beginning his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry is attacked by dementors and is sentenced to a disciplinary hearing due to his use of magic to repel them and save his cousin. Following this is a year fraught with change in the form of a terrible new teacher, Professor Umbridge (according to dictionary.com, the word umbrage means hostility, offense, and annoyance so nice word choice there, Rowling), mounds of homework in preparation of the O.W.L. exams that will determine their career paths, and haunting dreams about a dark corridor.
Though the entire series chronicles Harry’s coming of age in the formative years of his life, it is in the fifth book that the most drastic change takes place. Harry is at a crossroads as far as how others treat him and how he perceives himself. The age of fifteen is difficult, even for the magically inclined, and quite a few of the signposts of puberty rear their heads in The Order of the Phoenix.
Harry finds his mantle of responsibility not so much lain upon him, but thrown into his face with an exclamation of CATCH! After avoiding Harry nearly the entire year, Dumbledore takes Harry to his office after *Spoiler Alert* the battle in the Department of Mysteries. They talk about Dumbledore’s reasons for keeping his distance and the problem Dumbledore had of finding the right time to tell Harry about the prophecy and why Voldemort killed his parents. Dumbledore’s indecision comes down to how young Harry is and how inappropriate telling him seemed up until it was forced upon him in the aftermath of the battle. He struggles with Harry’s maturation because he truly cares for Harry and knows the task ahead will prove difficult, if not fatal.
One of the most prominent symptoms of Harry’s burgeoning puberty is the way he reacts to the change around him. By the time of summer vacation, Dumbledore is not talking to him, his contact with Sirius is slim to none and the few letters he receives from his friends contain nothing to make him feel like he is able to help fight against Voldemort. When reunited, he goes on a tirade at Ron and Hermione after the long summer of feeling left out and though they try to reassure him, his selfishness and inability to empathize in the moment cause him pangs of jealousy when he learns that they were named as Prefects and he wasn’t. He feels betrayed, as if this is another slight against him and that causes some amount of grief until it is put in perspective by his time in the Order’s secret hideout.
Harry’s fifth year not only finds him questioning his friendships at times, but brings him into the world of romantic entanglements. His first relationship goes as one might expect for a fifteen year old celebrity: very badly. Some of the humor in the book comes from the laughable mistakes that Harry makes in his attempts to be in a relationship with Cho Chang. They are obviously interested in each other but his emotional immaturity makes for a rocky start to his love life.
One person to whom Harry has no problem showing his love is Sirius, his estranged godfather, and this brings them both into grave peril. As Hermione states in warning, Harry seems to have a “thing about saving people.” He has a sort of hero complex and is often unwilling to receive help until it is forced upon him, like when he is accompanied by his friends to the Department of Mysteries when he wanted to go by himself. Like many teenagers, however, Harry contradicts his behavior with his words when he is asked to start teaching other students Defense Against the Dark Arts and claims that he isn’t qualified because all of the examples of his heroics involved someone else helping or luck. Hermione’s hunch proves true and it is a trap, but it is with the help of those who came along, and the timely arrival of the Order of the Phoenix, that he is able to escape with his life.
There is a shift of perspective in Harry’s hero worship of his father and Sirius. When Harry is receiving Occlumancy lessons (the ability to protect one’s mind from outside influence) from Professor Snape, he looks into Snape’s memories and sees how James Potter and Sirius acted when they were his age. Needless to say, they were like many teenage boys and didn’t put much thought into their actions. Harry sees his father bully a young Severus Snape without cause and this brings about a paradigm shift for him. Was his father really that mean? Was Snape right to have hated him? This is rectified to a degree when Lupin and Sirius tell Harry that they aren’t proud of how they acted and that they grew up and regret their actions. This is a turning point in how Harry perceives his heroes and shows growth from the time he spends at Hogwarts.
The Order of the Phoenix sets up the next book nicely with the cliffhanger realization that I think we as readers knew all along: by the end of this, either Harry or Voldemort will die by the other’s hand. Harry struggles with this and though he believes he knew it on some level, it is still difficult for him to come to terms with. The books ahead promise to test Harry’s resolve and ability to act maturely as we continue to watch his path toward either greatness or the grave.
Verdict: 4 Educational Decrees by order of the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts out of 5
Recommended for: You, Me, Dupree, him, her, shgle, shgler, people who enjoy magically racist portraits shouting at others, and Ronald Weasly (He’s our king. He never lets the quaffle in).
Not recommended for: Dolores Umbridge, Draco Malfoy (MALFOY GET OOOOOOOOOOUT YOU PLATINUM HAIRED BUFFOON!), Sirius Black, or Kreacher.