My favorite Harry Potter book is Order of the Phoenix, which is strange because Sirius is my favorite character, and he dies towards the end of the book (spoilers?). I don’t think it’s strange, though, because it came out exactly when I needed it, in 2003, the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. I was 16 (Harry’s 15 in this one, so yes, I am the Harry Potter generation and basically grew up right alongside him. Be jealous) and oh my goodness being a teenager was kicking my ass.
Harry is just such a teenager in this one, and 16-year-old me related to him in this book more than any other character in any other book I’d read to that point. The whole world was against him, and he wasn’t being taken seriously, the adults were just patting him on the head and sending him off on his way, as though he couldn’t possibly understand the situation in front of him. Up till this point, he’d put a lot of faith in the adults in his life, that they were doing what was necessary to keep him safe & that he could trust them. Order of the Phoenix is the turning point where he started realizing that the adults in his life are people, and they weren’t perfect, and they had flaws and weak points and he may not agree with them on everything. He is angry, and reacts to it in a flawlessly teenage way, by being withdrawn and secretive and blowing up at people and generally clinging to the idea that nobody could possibly understand his struggles.
I was absolutely that teenager. Without dragging my entire life story out, I have had a few times in my life when I had struggles with my mental health, and around this particular time, those struggles basically came out of the woodwork and vomited all over me and my life. I’m sure I was an absolute joy to be around, but believe me when I say it wasn’t awesome being that person, either.
But Harry – specifically the Harry of this book – was the first character that I ever saw go through the same struggles that I did. Obviously our lives weren’t a perfect parallel – dark wizards never attempted to assassinate me, and my godfather is alive and well to this day – but there were similarities that resonated with me. I saw him struggling with the idea that he was expected to take on adult responsibilities while the adults in his life still treated him like a child when it was convenient for them; I saw him struggling with a sense of anger towards the world at large and an inability to control it or even direct it properly; I saw him struggling with the idea that even people who he considered “good guys” can be flawed and that there is more than one flavor of shitty person in the world – and I related to him going through those things. I have been a voracious reader my entire life, and I had never – have never – related to a character as strongly as I related to Harry during Order of the Phoenix.
And that, my friends, is why Order of the Phoenix is my favorite Harry Potter book, despite containing the death of my favorite Harry Potter character.