Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan

Summary: Percy Jackson has been expelled from the many private schools he has attended.  Between his problems with dyslexia and ADHD and his propensity for attracting trouble, he's finding he doesn't fit in with any school.  However, as Percy's life becomes increasingly in danger, he begins to learn about his origins and connections to the Olympians of Greek mythology.  It turns out the Greek Olympians are real and alive, and Percy is the son of one of them.  Percy joins other demigods at Camp Half-Blood and is soon on a quest with a daughter of Athena, Annabeth, and a satyr, Grover, to discover who has stolen Zeus' thunderbolt.

Musings: I'd heard about the Percy Jackson series from my students for a couple years; it always got brought up when we began our Greek Mythology unit prior to studying the Odyssey.  However, it wasn't until this year that I had a large contingent of students who had read and followed the series.  The Lightning Thief came out in 2005, so it would have been timed perfectly to arrive with my current students' emergence into middle school.  After their hearty recommendations, I began the series myself.

The Lightning Thief is written for a middle-school audience (the hero is a sixth grader), so some of the fantasy elements were a bit (and understandably so) juvenile.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed this classic adventure story with a mythological twist.  The continual references to mythology are fun, even if they're glaringly obvious to someone familiar with the material (anyone who knows the Odyssey would know better than to enter a hotel called "Hotel Lotus").  The kids' mistakes were also a little too dumb, even for middle schoolers (even a 12-year-old knows that if someone offers food and a warm place to stay for free there's danger ahead), but such mistakes kept the story going along at a brisk pace.

I enjoyed the primary characters and their relationships with the gods.  Riordan does a nice job exploring what the relationship between a half-blood son and an all-powerful god would be like.  It's a world in which the gods maintain power despite no mortals believing in them, and I liked the way Riordan worked that into the story.

Like in many young adult novels, the characters are not particularly unique or new, and there is an American-centric basis that was a little annoying (Mount Olympus is now located above the Empire State building because the United States is the epicenter of the world).  However, I'll definitely pick up the next book (I don't think my students would let me do otherwise), even though I know that means accepting the reading of the entire five-book series!

1 comment:

  1. I just read this myself and enjoyed it quite a lot (it was urged on my by the son of a friend). I agree with all of your points - obviousness, America-centric, etc., but I still thought it was charming and fun. I'll pick up the next few in the series, and look forward to the film version. Happy reading!