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Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5)

by J.K. Rowling

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Harry Potter the Order of the Phoenix
The questions are racing through your mind: Does it hold up to all the hype? Does it give justice to the literary legends that the first books have already become? Can it be understood if you haven't had the time to wade through the tree trunk's worth of previous stories? And the verdict is YES!

It's been three years since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out with a Howler uproar of praise that exploded universally around the world. Saturday June 21st marked an important and strange date in the history of literature. As public libraries slowly lose funding, and kids regularly flock towards movies and video games, suddenly millions of children (along with their parents none-the-less)were partying over the idea of reading?

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the series, and the most anticipated after the last cliff hanger ending. The fourth book marked a turning point, as Lord Voldemort (think Darth Vader meets Hitler) returned to human form to rebuild his army and start a second uprise to power, determined to let only pure blood wizards remain. Compared to the first three books, the fourth was much darker, more compelling, and only led to the greatness of book five.
Harry, who in the movies is portrayed as a somewhat obnoxious symbol of goodness, has never been flawless in the books, and never in all the previous four, has he been so flawed. The Order of the Phoenix gives us the account of a fifteen-year-old Harry, one who is highly hormonal, temperamental, and hysterically awkward around girls. He has normal teenage temper tantrums-in many of which he is blatantly in the wrong. As Harry's good friend and teacher Hagrid says, "the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters." The fact that Harry doesn't always do the right thing and that there isn't a cartoonish line between the "good guys" and "bad guys" only makes the books better. Many of the "good guys" are actually jerks, and Harry, well, he's a lot like us, which is why millions love rooting for him.

By the way, "Death Eaters" are followers of Voldemort and The Order of the Phoenix is the name given to the group of wizards who are attempting to fight against them. The big problem, though, is that the rest of the world, helped mainly by a propaganda filled paper and an egotistical government ruler, is convinced Voldemort's claimed return was simply a publicity stunt by an attention seeking brat
(Harry)-a product of a school run too freely (Hogwarts). Book Five is reminiscent of Orwell's 1984 as "Big Brother," this time The Ministry of Magic, steps in and takes over the school, destroying all real learning with too many rules and constant censorship.

Though writing a much more intense book than its predecessors, J.K. Rowling doesn't lose her sense of humor. The trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione is panned out to create a larger group of friends resulting in a lot of hysterical new interactions. The usually mild comic relief twins Fred and George play a much larger role, along with a talking Ginny (Ron's younger sister who finally got over her mute-inducing crush on Harry),a slightly more grown up accident prone friend named Neville, and a crazy Luna "Loony" Lovegood whose strange confidence in her father's Enquirer-style paper makes the plot all the more wonderful. There are friendly laughs, fights, and crushes on almost every page in proper teenage fashion. One thing is for sure, Rowling definitely never forgot what it was like to be fifteen, and definitely knows how to keep her audience glued to the pages.

So the question remains, can the fifth book be enjoyed without reading the other four?
The first few chapters jump from character to character without so much as explaining their history or relevance. While veteran readers will find this welcoming, like returning to new friends without missing a beat, a new-comer might be off-put by the confusion and give up. Rowling does explain the four previous books and the interweaving relationships of characters, but unlike before where the old stories were amateurly regurgitated in condensed form on the first few pages,she does this with more expertise now, slowly stretching the information beautifully between the new plot. If it was possible for Rowling to become an even better storyteller, this is just one of themany many signs encased in The Phoenix.

As for old readers determined to find a flaw in the plot, a character misrepresented, or any sign that fame and fortune have lead to a weakening of J.K.'s devotion to the stories, they will be hard-pressed for evidence. Some have wondered whether the new weighty length was intended only for bragging rights, but after reading it, those same skeptics will probably wish it hadn't been edited at all.

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