If you've gotten this far in J. K. Rowling's seminal work, you're probably in it until the end.
I'm also going to assume that you've read the previous four novels. If you haven't, what are you doing reading this? You have something much more interesting to read!
Go on. Catch up. I'll be here when you finish.
Done? Awesome. Let's talk about Book 5. I won't completely spoil it, but if you want to dive a bit deeper, let's do that in the comments.
In The Order of the Phoenix, Rowling has wholeheartedly—intentional or not—moved into writing a YA novel. Harry and his friends are fifteen and full of angst and sexual frustration. Not only has the Wizarding world been normalized, but the Muggle world is now a place where Harry no longer considers his home.
For the first time since book 1, Harry is given his first significant character change. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry moved from a stranger to a world who saw him as an icon to a boy who has taken on the mantle of hero. In books 2-4, Harry continues to be the reluctant hero until he comes face to face with You-Know-Who at the end of book 4.
When we meet Harry at the start of the story, he's a different kid. I hesitate to reduce his experience to just angst-driven hormones of a fifteen-year-old boy. Harry is experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress and has been ripped away from his community with little communication. This results in a Harry who says things that we don't want to hear come from him. This is the crux of the next step in Harry's evolution. Rowling positions Harry in a place of hubris then systematically corrects him until he's ready to be what he needs to be in order to defeat the Dark Lord: a Leader.
I found the most interesting part of the story to be Harry's interaction with Severus Snape and how Harry's his worldview and relationship to his parents, Sirius, and the professor was turned on its side. Coming back to this series as an adult and author, this is perhaps the most brilliant addition to the story in my opinion.
Another interesting perspective shift as I revisit this story is rooted in Harry's relationship with Cho. I remember wishing that it had turned out differently when I first read the story, but now that I'm an adult, I really like it. It's strangely similar to experiences I've had, and I appreciate how well executed their relationship is.
But one thing remains consistent from childhood to adulthood.
I HATE UMBRIDGE.
She's both one of my favorite and most hated characters in the series. I love that Rowling can manipulate my emotions this way. It's a testament to her ability as a storyteller.
While I'm not thrilled that the SPEW thread continues further, I think that it was handled a bit better this time around. And Rowling transforming the Weasley twins from mildly entertaining comic relief to characters I stood up and cheered for more than made up for my dislike of this storyline
This one stands the test of time and scales well for teen and adult readers alike, a feat that is not lost on me. Well done, Ms. Rowling.