Why “Order of the Phoenix” Is the Best Book in the Series
It seems that about half of the Potterheads I meet claim Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to be their favorite in the series. As strong as the opinions are of PoA lovers, I constantly hear people rag on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and they are even more passionate about their dislike for Book 5 than they are for their love of Book 3. I have to bite my tongue, because I will die on the “OotP is the best book” hill. Let me preface this post by shouting from the rooftops that I LOVE ALL OF THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS! I am not telling you that Order of the Phoenix should be your favorite, but what I am saying is that I believe it to be the best. Here’s why:
We hate Umbridge more than we could ever hate Voldemort.
I am amazed by JKR’s ability to create such powerful, hated villains. Dolores Umbridge’s authority – and especially her authority over children – is what makes her so terrifying. I truly believe that Umbridge is more the type of threat that we face in contemporary society. We have seen corrupt political leaders. We have seen abusers in positions of power over kids. She represents a real, innate fear in most of us – being taken advantage of by someone that you should be able to trust, someone who should be protecting you.
We meet Tonks, Kingsley, and Luna.
They’re arguably three of the best characters in the entire Harry Potter series: Don’t-call-me-Nymphadora Tonks, our Hufflepuff Metamorphmagus queen; Kingsley Shacklebolt, our favorite Auror-turned-Minister-for-Magic; and, of course, we can’t forget Luna Lovegood, the dreamy and brilliant Ravenclaw. I love them all so, so much.
It shows the beginning of Dumbledore’s Army. ‘Nuff said.
I have never felt FOMO quite like I have when reading about this student-led rebellion. Learning to fight in the name of protection and proper education? These are my kind of people! As Grandmother Fa said in Mulan, “Sign me up for the next war!”
We see Neville’s parents at St. Mungo’s.
One of the tenderest moments in the entire series was not even included in the movies. After Arthur Weasley is attacked in the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione run into Neville and his grandmother visiting his parents at St. Mungo’s. Harry was already aware that they had been tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange, but he had never told any of his friends since Neville had chosen not to either.
‘Again?’ said Mrs. Longbottom, sounding slightly weary. ‘Very well, Alice dear, very well – Neville, take it, whatever it is…’
But Neville had already stretched out his hand, into which his mother dropped an empty Drooble’s Blowing Gum wrapper.[…]
‘Well, we’d better get back,’ sighed Mrs. Longbottom, drawing on long green gloves. ‘Very nice to have met you all. Neville, put that wrapper in the bin, she must have given you enough of them to paper your bedroom by now…’
But as they left, Harry was sure he saw Neville slip the wrapper into his pocket. (OotP, ch. 23)
Harry learns more about his parents.
From diving into Snape’s memories to discussing them with Sirius and Remus, we are right alongside Harry as he learns more about his parents at Hogwarts. I think one of the most powerful moments in the entire series is when Harry realizes that his father wasn’t a perfect person. I think I may have been in even more shock than Harry! As someone who has experienced great loss, it’s easy to put our loved ones who have passed on a pedestal. James Potter had flaws, and that’s okay. In the wise words of Sir Sirius Black, “A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen. He grew out of it” (OotP, ch. 29). It’s so easy to look back at someone’s life – whether fictional or not – and judge them based off of their mistakes. We do it all the time with literary characters, leaders of our countries, and ourselves. I’m not excusing James’s bullying, arrogance, or trouble, but in this case, I think his good outweighed his bad. He chose to fight against Voldemort – and chose for the right reasons: not because he wanted a girl’s attention (although that seemed to be an added bonus), but because he knew that all people were equal.
McGonagall stands up for Trelawney.
If this isn’t an act of true sisterhood, I don’t know what is. It’s no secret that Professor McGonagall doesn’t trust Professor Trelawney’s “predictions.” Despite Sybill’s incompetency, Minerva stands up for her at the moment that she needed it the most. Plus, I can’t help but cheer when Dumbledore undermines Umbridge by allowing Trelawney to continue residing at Hogwarts.
There are literal brains.
I’ll leave this one to Harry and the Potters: