Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J.K. Rowling
First Read: I was there at midnight in 2003 to get my copy, which I tore through immediately
Format: Plugging along on the audiobooks courtesy of Pottermore and Jim Dale - love that man
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of my favorites in the series, or at least it has been up to this reading. Yet I have had to come to grips on this reread with a simple fact: it is built on a trifecta of asshattery. The asshats in question are Harry, Sirius, and Dumbledore. Let's consider each of their asshattiness in turn.
Harry is basically a whiny schmuck throughout this entire book. I will defend him, because he is a 15 year old boy, and his normal hormonal craziness is likely simmering alongside a solid case of PTSD. He is still an asshat, especially when it comes to lashing out at his friends without being able to articulate what he's so mad about.
But considering that he's basically coming to grips with a lifetime case of being Typhoid Mary, I'll give him somewhat of a pass.
Now let's look at Sirius. He is more responsible for acting like a petulant child, considering that he is a GAM.* But to be fair, he went to a Guantanomo-esque prison when he was innocent and still a pretty young guy, so that's enough to screw you up royally. True, he literally pouts when Harry refuses to aid and abet him in genuinely reckless behavior.
And his cockiness *SPOILERS* gets him killed, which is the last thing that his godson needs at the moment.
But again, he clearly has some serious psychological baggage that is motivating his actions. I can make my peace with his immaturity.
The final corner of this asshat triangle is Dumbledore and let's be real, he has by far the fewest excuses. This is one of the only times in the series that I truly feel Rowling fails to properly/realistically motivate her characters. He's keeping all the backstory from Harry (which we'll deal with in the next reread) for 2 ostensible reasons: 1) Dumbledore doesn't want Voldemort to catch onto his plans and be tempted to control Harry, and 2) He wants to preserve what's left of Harry's childhood and not cause him any more pain. The first reason is ab.surd. Voldemort is bound to figure out that he can see into Harry's mind sooner than later. Voldemort will then know that Harry knows there's a connection. Considering that Harry is Dumbldore's #1 protege, don't you think Voldemort can make that leap that Dumbledore knows that Voldemort knows that he can get up into Harry's psyche?
Insane. Why Dumdledore didn't have Harry onto Occlumency lessons, like, the day after the Triwizard Tournament fiasco makes zero sense. As for the second supposed reason, let's get real here. Harry kissed his innocence goodbye a long time ago. Even if we were to ignore his mother being murdered in front of him, his subservient treatment by his unloving relatives, the 2 previous times that an embodied form of Voldemort tried to murder him at Hogwarts, and the trauma of being nearly soul-sucked by a herd of Dementors, let's just look at what happened to him right before Dumbledore starts giving him the freeze out...
Harry is lured into a death trap by his mentor/confidant, who is actually his attempted murderer's minion. His friend is murdered in front of him. He is strapped to a tombstone and watches his parents' Judas cut off his own arm. He sees Voldemort emerged from a bubbling caldron and then has to have the equivalent of a wizard street fight with the guy in the middle of a graveyard while a bunch of menacing adults taunt him. His dead loved ones emerge in ghost form to aid him and then he has to carry his dead friend's body back to Hogwarts. Just when Harry thinks he's safe, his mentor reveals that he is an impostor who is also going to try to kill him. And then he's basically called a liar by the head of the government.
So, yeah, Dumbledore. I think the innocence ship has sailed. And is it really going to be less painful to found out that he's probably going to be murdered by Voldemort in a couple years? I say yank that band-aid off sooner than later. I know JK is trying to pass off that Dumbley is too emotionally involved with Harry, but really...
Anyways, my biggest take away from this book is that Dumbledore's faults are a lot more glaring now that I'm an adult and have a better gauge as to what constitutes reasonable behavior towards the care of minors. There is no real reason why Dumbledore doesn't give Harry at least a little more information, other than it would ruin JK's plotting. I can feel the gears turning here a little too hard in an attempt to hold the major plot arc off for the next book. That being said, this makes me even more excited for books 6 & 7.
And besides the trifecta of asshattery, Order has an abundance of delights. Watching the gang form Dumbledore's Army is delightful (Harry puts on one hell of a night class!) and the Weasley twins' escape from Umbridge's clutches never fails to bring a smile for me.
Ehrmagerd, speaking of Umbridge, she is pure evil! I never fail to be totally creeped out by her twisted combination of sadism and obsessive pink collecting. She is a bureaucratic Satan incarnate, truly, and hat's off to JK for creating such a thoroughly despicable character in such a plausible way. And the scene in the Department of Mysteries never fails to creep the ever loving crap out of me.
The audio on book 5 continues to be great - the adverbs seem to be letting up. Maybe she'll out grow them? Anyways, you go Jim Dale. You're the best. (Though that being said, I have recently been made aware that in the UK, you can get a version with Stephen Fry narrating. I wants it, my precious!)
*Grown Ass Man. Counterpart is Grown Ass Woman. Patent pending.