When it comes to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I am very much “late to the party”, and I regret that to my core.
The novels are middle-grade level, but I have heard nothing but how much I should read these books given that I am a Harry Potter fan. Unlike Harry Potter, the story has less of an academic feeling, while still being somewhat educational given all of the references to classic Greek mythology. I found Percy a very likeable characters, and the pace was quick enough to certainly hold the attention of younger readers – especially boys, given all of the action.
For The Lightning Thief, I chose to listen along with the audiobook while working, and found the performance by Jesse Bernstein to be on par with Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter audiobooks. He was engaging, even doing different voices for each of the characters. It slowed down my reading time by listening – I tend to read fairly quickly – but it was worth it for a bit of extra fun while reading.
To double back for a moment, I would like to talk about Percy and Annabeth. Percy is a great character, reflecting the hardships of being an outsider at home as well as in school in a way that is both realistic and relatable. So many children these days are ridiculed by teachers or struggling to get by with those who don’t understand the difficulties brought on by learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia, that the inclusion of such disorders in children’s fiction is wonderful to see. Percy pushes through his problems and faces his challenges head on. He doubts himself but knows how to protect the ones he cares about, doing what it is they need him to do. Annabeth is similar in terms of her strength. She has been through so much yet she does not let it get her down. Strong female characters that young girls can relate to is just as important as the inclusion of learning disabilities. Annabeth is not a “girly girl”, but she is not a “tomboy” either. She is herself, and that is not a stereotypical heroin that is typically in fantasy fiction. Riordan does not forget that the characters he has created are children. They get scared. They get angry. They tease each other. But he also remembers the loyalty lonely children have for each other.
Riordan also does not tolerate domestic violence. In the beginning Gabe simply harrasses Sally, not something that is acceptable, but by the end we see Sally flinch away from him. Percy promises not to get involved in an issue that his mother needs to be the one to handle, but Sally no longer needs to protect her son and refuses to roll over any longer. She takes care of Gabe, ensuring her own safety and therefore being able to provide the first non-toxic household environment he has known since Gabe first moved in. It was great to see Sally stand up for herself – even if it was “off screen”.
All in all, I really enjoyed this first book, and can’t wait to have a moment to start The Sea of Monsters.
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: June 28th 2005
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Synopsis: Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.