Despite being the largest book I have ever held (an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), Book 5 has been a great travel companion. Over the last two weeks, I would lug this ginormous book with me to the Caltrain and read a hundred pages or so on my way to work. I had forgotten how funny JK Rowling was until I found myself laughing alone while reading this book. This book is supposed to be dark, too, but I love that the characters were allowed to be teenagers still.
I have to admit: I’ve always found this to be my least favorite book in the series. I remember the first time I read this. I had borrowed it from the library absolutely sure I could return it in a week max, but I couldn’t get myself to pick up the book and to read it for longer periods that I had to rush reading through the book to return it by the time it was due. (Or maybe I didn’t finish and had to borrow another copy? Ok, maybe I don’t remember that well.) Fast forward to 15 (WOW, IT’S BEEN THAT LONG?) years later, and I definitely looked forward to reading on each morning. I didn’t mind lugging the gigantic book around, and I even brought it with me on days I knew I was going out with friends.
What’s changed? Good question. Obviously it’s not the book that’s changed but myself that has. I guess I have learned the meaning of maturity and empathy and other things as time went by. It also helped that I knew how things were going to end anyway, so I was able to focus more on the fun fun fun details that I didn’t focus on the first time around.
- Fred and George Weasley’s inventions were amazing and brought Dolores Umbridge misery. Seriously, those two were so smart—so smart that they knew academic success doesn’t matter as much if you’re doing what you love. In tribute to the twins, let us recall their inventions gave Dolores Umbridge hell:
- Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs: Such beautiful fireworks that even Hermione was impressed by the show. Even if they were disrupting classes, well, none of the other teachers knew if they had authority to extinguish them.
- Portable Swamp: This, according to Professor Flitwick, was a “really good bit of magic,” only having been removed after Dolores Umbridge was sacked. There should be a tiny patch of portable swamp somewhere at Hogwarts as a tribute to seven years of trouble-making by the Weasley twins.
- Skiving Snackboxes: These were small but terrible inventions that rebellious students took to show they had Umbridge-itis. The Weasley twins live forever.
- Neville’s improvement upon learning his parents’ tormentor escaped Azkaban was very noticeable. He tried a lot harder in D.A. and was unafraid to fight the Death Eaters. I do like that it wasn’t a radical change: Neville still missed his target at times and shouted STUBEFY! due to his injuries, but he wasn’t going down without a fight.
- Ginny Weasley’s attitude was on fire during this book. No longer shy around Harry, Ginny was actually a fun person to have around. She joined in on Fred and George’s antics, and, apparently, used to steal the Weasley boys’ brooms to practice flying. And, as a reminder, Ginny came up with the name “Dumbledore’s Army.” Ginny was quite the character.
But I also don’t think that I’ve changed that much because my reasons for not ranking this book as highly as the rest are still the same:
- Harry’s hot temper was something I never liked about the book. (Now) I get it though. Having gone through so much but not hearing any explanation would be very agitating. I just… cringe on a personal level because puberty and hormones and emotions are just so uncomfortable that I remember my own clashes with puberty, and I don’t really want to relive those memories.
- Dolores Umbridge is the worst character in the whole series. She is a horrible vile person who clearly subscribes to the mantra, “the end justifies the means.” She has a superiority complex that is just revolting; she may not have murdered anyone, but she might as well have with her beliefs! (Don’t forget: she hates Hagrid and Lupin because they’re half-breeds.) Finally, from her scarily high-pitched girlish voice, which was excellently portrayed by Imelda Staunton in the movie, to her sick methods for detention, she makes my skin crawl.
- Sirius Black’s demise was just the cherry on top of this uncomfortable book. When I think about why or how he died, I think to myself: this didn’t have to happen. I refuse to believe it. It was only two books ago when Sirius Black entered
our livesHarry’s life, and now he’s gone. I am upset. Harry could have listened to Ron and Hermione when they didn’t think Harry’s vision was real. Or… Sirius could have stayed back at headquarters, but no, he decided to come and fight, too. Gryffindors can be so reckless. Yet I am happy about one thing: that Sirius died an honorable death, that he died fighting to protect the people he loved. Rest in peace, Sirius Black.
The writing and the plot were really good. I have no qualms about that. I have a renewed appreciation for Book 5. I’m really glad I re-read the book, but it’s just so hard to love a book that makes me feel like someone’s wrenching my heart out of my chest and is squeezing it until it bleeds dry. A little too graphic, maybe, but I just can’t with Book 5. It’s like that year in middle or high school that you just want to forget. (Such drama, but I love the drama.)