Published by Disney Hyperion on July 1, 2005
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Adventure
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.
I was unfamiliar with Percy Jackson until last year, and was excited when I won a full set of the series in a giveaway. I don’t often read middle grade unless it is a reread, but I was interested to give this a try because it has such a huge fanbase. After reading the first book, I can definitely understand why this series is so loved, but I did have some issues with it.
First and foremost, I was beyond annoyed with the Harry Potter parallels in this story. Our protagonist Percy is a 12-year-old boy who has experienced strange occurrences throughout his childhood that he cannot explain. As it turns out, he’s a half-blood, which means he is the son of a human and a Greek god. Percy goes to Camp Half Blood in Long Island, New York (aka Hogwarts), where he learns more about his special powers and is trained to kill monsters.
Percy becomes part of a trio that goes out on an epic quest in order to prevent a war between the gods of Olympus. He is joined by Annabeth, a very bright young girl, and Grover, a satyr who is a bit of a doofus, but a great friend to Percy. Oh, and did I mention there is a security guard at Camp Half Blood named Argus? I mean, come on, this is truly inspired by Harry Potter, and with every detail that paralleled Harry’s story I wanted to throw the book across the room. I’m sure author Rick Riordon was influenced by Rowling’s work, but whether he intended the similarities or not, I couldn’t believe how replete they were throughout The Lightening Thief.
Moreover, another huge drawback in the story for me was the predictability. I understand this is a middle grade novel that I am reading as an adult, but I was easily able to figure out most of the action by the plethora of hints Riordon drops throughout the novel. With that being said, I was quite frustrated with the ending of the book because it did not flow logically from the story’s set-up. Instead, it felt like Riordon wanted to shock the readers, and he did so with an unexpected twist that was a bit disjointed. That definitely took away some credibility from the book.
Putting those issues aside, however, I really did enjoy The Lightning Thief. The writing style was very well done, and I really liked Percy as a first-person narrator. Percy was a very relatable character, as he was quite imperfect but still incredible at the same time. If I was reading this as a middle schooler, I’d definitely want to be friends with Percy and his gang.
In addition, I loved the road-trip adventure that Percy goes on in this book, and how he needs to fight a variety of monsters along the way. It was really fun how Riordon included Greek mythology in an American setting, and adapted the gods and monsters for the 21st Century. While it took me about 130 pages to really become invested in the world, once I was hooked I couldn’t put the book down and finished the remainder in one day. I’m really looking forward to continuing on in the series and seeing where Percy ends up next!
Thus, if you are looking for a fun, middle grade fantasy, I think Percy Jackson is a great place to start. I know that kids will really enjoy it, but adults who grew up with Harry Potter as I did will need to read this with a grain of salt. I’m hopeful that as the series continues the books will divulge from Harry Potter and take on its own unique identity.