Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

 Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy

 So, I'm a sucker for a good kids' fantasy/sci-fi book, and it's really rare for me to find one I don't like. Well, I did. I had picked up the book because I saw the movie and thought it was cute and figured the book was better. I, a huge Harry Potter snob, had heard a few people say, "Oh, it's like Harry Potter! It's really good." All I can say is, "Percy Jackson, I knew Harry Potter, and you are no Harry Potter."

The book, for the record, wasn't horrible. It accounts the adventures of demi-God Percy Jackson, from his bizarre final days of sixth grade, when he discovers his dad is one of the "Big Three" Olympian gods (Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus), and that his learning disabilities (ADHD and dyslexia) are actually his battle reflexes and what allows him to read ancient Greek (yet his dyslexia still affects him when he reads ancient Greek, which confused me) to his high adventure arrival at Camp Half-Blood, a camp for the gods bastards (to put it nicely). From there, Percy is given a quest to retrieve Zeus's master lightning bolt and prevent massive amounts of disaster befalling the human race.

Okay, I'll give you that it's an interesting idea. And Riordan does a really great job in explaining why Mount Olympus is currently located in New York City, and even tackles sticky ideas like "God" versus folks like Athena or Apollo. In all, I like how Riordan works this really crazy world of ancient Grecian gods and goddesses into our modern America. This is where a similarity to Harry Potter can be made.

What I wasn't into was the general campiness. Yes, Harry Potter (sorry I'm harping on this) is campy, but Percy Jackson managed to be more so. The voice of Percy (the book is in first person) felt like it was trying too hard to sound young. The benefit of writing from third person, when your main character is a 12 year old, and you, the writer, are not 12, is that you don't necessarily have to sound like it. It felt really corny in parts and there were certain times when Percy didn't sound like...Percy, I guess. That really bothered me and made the narration feel unauthentic. I also felt like some parts moved too quickly. Riordan should have spent more time in locations or gave more information or something. But then other parts would drag a bit. This definitely wasn't a book I raced through.

Comparable Reads: Like I said, there are some comparisons to Harry Potter, but don't go and read this expecting the same kind of stuff. In my opinion, Harry's better. I can't think of anything I've read that is similar, but if I can think of anything else later, I'll toss it here.

Who this book is for: This is definitely for a younger set, like upper elementary and middle school. That's not to say older folks won't like it (there are a few people in my teacher's ed. program who have loved this book), but I have little doubt that this book would be a hit with a lot of 11-13 year olds, particularly boys--although, the book does have a really strong female character (like, if Hermoine was interested in getting into street fights), so girls would have someone to connect to as well.

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