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.
Song for This Book: The Planets: Mars by Gustav Holst
I had first heard of this book when it came out in 2006 (just to date myself), as a recommendation from the bookstore I frequented because I enjoyed Harry Potter. I had glanced it over, but at fifteen, it seemed a little childish for me, especially since I was reading a lot of adult fiction at the time. I watched the movies when they were on Netflix a while back, wasn’t impressed, and never gave the books a second thought.
But the Percy Jackson books have a huge fandom online, and I kept running into it. I came across a rather inexpensive copy of this book in a second hand store, and decided to give it a chance. Might as well find out what all the fuss is about.
It was such a fun read! It’s pure fantasy and a whole lot of mythology, and has a wonderful emphasis on the importance and dynamics of friends and family. It’s a middle grade novel, so it’s super simple to read, but it’s simplicity doesn’t take away from the story in the slightest. If anything, I think it made it seem more genuine. Percy’s only 12, after all.
I think my favourite thing about this book was the lack of romance. I’ve been reading a lot of young adult lately, and so it was nice to have a fantastical story where no one was falling in love or even having a minor love interest. The focus was on the story and the themes of family, friends, and integrity, and it was awesome. A real breath of fresh air that makes me think I need to read more middle grade books.
The Good Points of The Lightning Thief:
The pacing in this book is phenomenal. I never got bored with this book, because there was never time between the action to think about it. Every time you turn around, something else is being thrown at you, and it’s great. It’s one of the few books where I actually thought it could be longer.
I loved how Riordan incorporated all of the different gods into the story. Maybe it wasn’t the most accurate portrayal of the real Greek myths, but who cares? It was fun and it worked so well.
I loved Percy’s character so much! He’s very well rounded, he’s happy at times, angry at others, bored now and then. He has his own ideas that are maybe different from his friends, but he stays true to what he believes no matter what. If he were a real kid, I would want to hang out with him.
The children act like children, and the adults act like adults. And what makes this a good point, is that none of them know what they’re doing. No character is this novel has all the answers, which is nice, after some other fantasy stories I’ve come across where there is an all knowing being. Even the gods don’t know what’s going on. It’s a great scenario to expose middle grade readers too, I think, because that’s what real life is like.
The Downsides of The Lightning Thief:
There was a fair bit of toilet humour in this that I felt was unnecessary. I realize that everyone can have their own sense of humour and find different things funny, and that kids that age do like those jokes. But Percy was such a smart, snarky kid at some points that I felt he should have been above such common, crude humour.
Though the adults were portrayed as not being all knowing, and the fact that I liked this, I did feel like the adult characters were rather one-sided. They were less characters and more archetypes. It worked, and the book wasn’t really long enough for the to be more than that, but I’d like to see them grow in future books.
It was a bit on the slow side until Percy got to Camp Half-Blood. There was stuff happening, but I found it hard to get into at first. It picks up rather quickly, though, so you just have to push through the first few chapters.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. A lot of people compare this series to Harry Potter, which I don’t necessarily agree with, because they’re completely different premises and cultures. I would have loved it a lot more when I was ten or eleven, but it just wasn’t out then. I’m excited to get my hands on the next in the series and see what sort of shenanigans that Percy and his friends get up to next.
Have you read this one? Did you read it as an adult or as a kid? What did you think?