|Also pictured: My Hermione's Everyday Socks in Wizard Green.|
I think the single most maddening thing in the entire book was and still is when Umbridge gives Harry detention and she gives him that blood pen and he has to write "I will not tell lies" into his hand over and over and over. It's visceral and cruel and of course so wrong, and I cringe and squirm every time. It's an even worse punishment than being banned from Quidditch. So when Harry doesn't go to McGonagall or even Dumbledore about it, who would put an immediate end to that punishment, I seethe. I don't think I ever saw why he didn't speak up about it until I read the book this time around--in this installment, he's holding so much in, it's his MO, his only way to keep moving forward.
But, of course, you can't do that forever. And when Harry finally lets all of his frustration and anger and fear out in the very end, in Dumbledore's office, it felt like such a cathartic moment for him, and for the reader. I was so relieved that Rowling gave him this moment of losing control, of having a temper tantrum, or being able to scream that it wasn't fair. Because it's not, it's terrible and awful and why does it have to be Harry anyway? It sets things up perfectly for the next book, in which Harry has to grapple with this "Chosen One" nonsense and actually study and learn how to defeat Voldemort. And it lets Harry behave like an actual teenager with actual anger, which I so appreciate.
I also greatly enjoyed how everyone's hormones seem to explode onto the scene in this book. An alternate title for this book could be Hermione Explains Feelings to Harry & Ron, and it's so entertaining to read. It balances out the darker aspects Umbridge being awful and so unbelievably unfair. I also loved Dumbledore's Army. Because of course.
Even though Goblet of Fire was the turning point in the series, from high-stakes adventure to just high-stakes life and death, battle for good and evil, I think that Order of the Phoenix really is another turning point, too. (Lots of turns!) After this book, there is definitely lots of fear, the danger isn't something Harry goes looking for but just is there, around every turn. I read the rest of the books with excitement, but also dread for all the sadness that is coming. The intellectual part of me knows that in order to tell good stories, stakes should be high and bad things need to happen, but it's sort of nice to just wallow in the middle of the Order of the Phoenix, where there's danger and sadness and struggle, but nothing is irreparably damaged and the deaths aren't too personal.
Nevertheless, we press onwards...