by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson has problems. He has dyslexia and ADHD. He has a stepfather from Hell. He's been kicked out of more boarding schools than he can count on one hand. And one of his teachers just sprouted wings and tried to kill him.
Now, kicked out of yet another boarding school and on his way home to New York, Percy realizes that he can add "might be going crazy" to the list. But when he gets to his mother's NYC apartment only to see her rattled and ready to send him to some strange summer camp where all the campers claim to be fathered by Gods, Percy realizes there's more going on than he could have imagined. And he's about to find himself in the middle of a war between three of the most powerful Gods around.
Like many people, I'd had this on my to read list for quite awhile, but could never seem to make myself get around to it. I'm not sure why; I love mythology, and was a bit obsessed with it as a kid. Maybe I was afraid I'd be disappointed. Then a good friend of mine, NL* Jenn read the series and started pushing it hard. Something to know about Jenn: she is a hardcore, card-carrying Harry Potter fanatic. When she compared the Percy Jackson series to HP, I knew I had to read it; Jenn does not toss Harry around lightly.
She was right. There's a definite Harry Potter feel about the book, but not at all in a bad, rip-off way. Percy definitely stands on his own two feet, but some of the magic that was captured by Rowling has been captured by Riordan as well. Percy is thoroughly engaging, and his story is full of humor and tension and the fantastic, while still feeling believable and root-forable at its core.
The Characters: I think Riordan made an excellent choice in creating Percy and his other characters. The idea of a hero who's on the surface just a kid with problems is a great move for two reasons. 1) Having Percy have common issues like ADHD, dyslexia, and anger issues, and who is estranged from his parents makes him relatable. There are going to be kids reading these books that have these same issues, or know someone who does. This is going to make readers root for Percy, and feel a connection to him that is deeper and more immediate than it maybe would have been otherwise. 2) It creates balance. As anyone who's heard about the books or seen the trailer for the movie knows, Percy is the son of a god. This could have potentially made Percy to 'Other' -- too powerful and distant to be relatable. Giving him issues to deal with inspite of his lineage grounds him in reality and makes him more likeable. This extends to the other characters as well. They may all be descended from the Gods, but that doesn't mean they lead perfect, care-free lives. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this means great tension and relatability.
To go along with this, I also thoroughly enjoyed Percy's voice. The narration is light and engaging, and Percy is a nice mix of wise-ass and scared kid.
The Quest: Percy's journey is also a good choice by Riordan. He started high, with a potential war between the gods looming, its weight pretty squarely on Percy's shoulders. At the same time, he left himself room to grow over the series. There's a clear idea of where it's going, and there's room for the tension to increase as the story arc progresses. There's also a great wealth of mythology to mine, which the reader will learn alongside Percy (*gasp* kids learning while they read for fun? Score!) The mythology is fun and interesting, and Riordan uses it well.
All in all, I don't really have anything negative to say about this. I think it's age appropriate, but still able to keep older audiences engaged. The tone is good, the story's good, and it's a great follow-up for Harry Potter fans, while being able to stand on its own. When I finished this one, I immediately bought the rest of the series. Get it, read it, and enjoy it.
*NL = naughty librarian
Short and sweet today:
The Percy Jackson website has super cool stuff for fans of the books and for those who haven't yet read them.
The movie has its own site too, with its own super cool stuff.