"Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!" - Jeff Daniels as Harry (Dumb & Dumber... and if I ever quote from Dumb & Dumber again, you have my permission to shut this blog down.)
Yes, I had just about had it with the whole series with the 4th book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and its plot hole large enough to fly a car through. And while I still don't suggest that Rowling is off the hook for that stupid mess, I have to say that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ranks up there as one of my favourites in the series so far.
Of the negative reviews of this book that I've read, many complain about the new moody Harry. However, I kind of like this Holden Caulfield and the Order of the Phoenix. Considering the stuff this character has been through, I'd say it was about time he started calling out the phoneys. Plus, he's a teenager at this point and who hasn't known or been an angsty teenager. About time Rowling did a little character building.
As an adult I also appreciated the whole bit about the Ministry of Magic interfering in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I have to say, it totally speaks to my anxieties as a teacher! Would a child find that part interesting? I have heard many complain that this book was the more boring of the lot, but my daughter certainly enjoyed it. In a way it was nice to have a new villain, and one who wasn't directly involved (at least in this book) with the Voldemort/Potter showdown. But Dolores Umbridge, the Ministry of Magic bureaucrat and new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, is so hairpullingly frustrating and wicked, she steals the show in this book. It's unfortunate that her character was made so bumbling and frivolous in the movie, complete with silly music whenever she appeared, completely missing the mark of what a serious source of tension she was in Rowling's book. But enough about the movie-- that could have its own post, and I don't do movie reviews!
Finally, I also appreciated Rowling finally addressing some of the nagging issues of the series up to that point. While done in a long rambling speech by Dumbledore near the end-- if there's one guarantee in any Harry Potter book, it's a long rambling speech at the end-- it was high time for the reasoning as to why Harry was sent to live with the abusive Dursleys every summer and sent there by people who supposedly cared for him. Plus, we finally see how that terrible upbringing has influenced Harry's personality. I don't read fantasy books expecting much realism, and certainly haven't found much in the Potter series. But the little bit of psychological realism in the Order of the Phoenix was appreciated.