I remember when this book came out: I had just started getting into Harry Potter, and after devouring the first four books, there was a long wait for the fifth. In elementary school, I remember getting the Goblet of Fire and reading it over and over. There was so much there: action, intrigue, mystery, and questions that were answered and some that were left to the imagination.
Then this book came along and I remember feeling disappointed. For a couple of reasons: first, it took a much darker tone than the first four books. Harry is obviously going through some trauma relating to the end of the fourth book. His tone with Ron and Hermione becomes irritable and hormonal. It often sounds like he is going through the height of puberty in this book. Second, the narrative is so cringy at points that it makes you want to put it down. For example, Umbridge is a horrible woman. She is the epitome of evil. In fact, I have more sympathy for Voldemort than I do for Umbridge. Third, one of the most beautiful parts about the HP series is Harry’s interaction with Dumbledore. This book severely lacks that element.
But on another read through, I’m warming up to this book. It is no longer my least favorite for several more reasons: first, we get answers to a lot of questions. For a long time when I first starting reading HP, I always asked the question, “well, why is Harry so special? Why does Voldemort want to kill him and why did he want to kill him in the first place?” This book, although it comes at the very end, finally provides that critical question. Second, the mystery really is quite brilliant. Rowling is a mystery writer; while I feel that GoF has more of this element, the lingering dream of the door provides the suspense in this book. And finally, I think I just got over the hormonal Harry issue. True, he does act irrationally. You do want to punch him at times. But to understand the trauma he went through and sympathize with him makes it somewhat bearable.