You know, it seems like practically any book that’s a best seller is starting to be required reading in schools. One such book is Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I remember back in September of last year my nephew had to read this book for class. Hell, this one book shop owner told me every school in Brooklyn was reading it. So after almost a year I decided to finally read it. Getting from the library was a hassle, too. (THREE HUNDRED HOLDS!)
The story is about Percy Jackson, a normal kid with ADHD and dyslexia (yup) who gets attacked by his math teacher. He finds out that he is really a half blood (half human, half god) whose father is Poseidon while at Camp Half Blood (a camp for half bloods). He is then told that Zeus’s lightning bolt has gone missing and that his dad was to blame. Since the gods can’t interfere with these things, it’s up to Percy to find the lightning bold before the summer solstice.
If this sounds like Harry Potter it pretty much is. Hell, Poseidon is one of the “Big Three,” gods who are supposed to be the most powerful out of all of them (the others are Zeus and Hades.) His ADD and dyslexia is because he’s supposed to be born for battle and read Ancient Greek.
Despite that, this is still a pretty interesting read. Rick Riordan takes what’s essentially a cliche premise and makes it interesting. Percy is an interesting character. He doesn’t come off as a Gary Stu self insert. He actually messes up (royally) and has weaknesses. They are pretty much him being not very smart and not very good in battle. I prefer these types of characters instead of ones who learn to fight like a master within a week (Eragon.)
The supporting cast is also interesting. Annabeth (Athena’s daughter) makes up for Percy’s lack of brains and a killer Yankees cap that makes her invisible. (Yankees fan here.) That doesn’t mean she’s an uptight bitch, either. Her personality is more like I want to prove myself because I grew up with a horrible stepmom. Her constantly calling Percy seaweed brain is more of her calling out Percy’s slow reaction time than her hating him (she doesn’t.) We then have Grover the Satyr. He’s mainly the comedy relief character but he’s more useful than you think. he has gotten Percy and Annabeth out of trouble multiple times. He’s not as useful as the other two, but he’s not dead weight either.
Yes, the whole Harry, Hermoine and Ron similarities sis not escape me. I said it was interesting but cliched, didn’t I?
Of course, there are some things that rub me the wrong way. The whole “gods can’t interfere” thing was more along the lines of letting the main characters doing all the work. Why can’t they just Men in Black mind erase everyone? Also, Olympian magical weapons can’t harm normal humans seems more like a plot convenience than anything else.
Is this series really English class worthy? Not really. It seems more like it’s mainly used as an easy way for teachers to teach Greek myth to grade schoolers than anything else. When these kids find out there’s a lot more violence, sex and other “interesting” bits in Greek myth they’ll look at this and see how sanitized it made them.
Besides all my gripes, I feel this series is still worth reading. It’s not great or anything, but it’s still enjoyable. People do need their Harry Potter fix and this is a good substitute. Think of this as the literary equivalent to Equal or Splenda.