The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2005, Book Review

the lightning thief“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.

If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. 

Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.”

Percy Jackson is a troubled twelve-year-old who’s been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD and been kicked out of every school he’s ever attended. Then in sixth grade, his life really starts to tank. Particularly when his pre-algebra teacher turns into a bat-winged monster and tries to kill him. Things go from bad to worse until he learns he’s only half human. Then the fun really begins.

Rick Riordan’s imagination is astounding. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a quest among the ancient Greek gods, a fresh and unique setting for tween readers. He kept me on the edge of my seat all the way to the end of the book with a great mix of suspense, action and a hilarious writing style. Consider some of my favorite moments:

“Mr. Brunner was this middle-aged guy in a motorized wheelchair. He had thinning hair and a scruffy beard and a frayed tweed jacket, which always smelled like coffee.”

“He looked like a cherub who’d turned middle-aged in a trailer park.”

“Standing behind us was a guy who looked like a raptor in a leisure suit.”

The one drawback to using the ancient gods in a book for kids is their legendary tendency toward promiscuity. In Camp Half-Blood, where Percy goes for the summer, a cabin is built for each god to collect all the cast-off children he or she has created with mortals. In a book for kids, this background of complete social dysfunction makes me cringe. But Riordan’s handling of it never crosses any bounds of propriety, never prompts kids to start asking questions that demand uncomfortable answers. It’s simply a pitfall of featuring gods. I greatly appreciate the restraint Riordan uses concerning inappropriate language. It’s nice to make a recommendation without having to include that post script.

One of my favorite things about The Lightning Thief is the way it becomes personal immediately. Warning kids right off that they might share Percy’s half-blood condition, that they too might be in danger, lends his predicament authenticity and sends a thrill of danger through the reader. It sure caught me right away. Riordan also makes effective use of his chapter titles. With headings like “I Accidentally Vaporize my Pre-algebra Teacher” and “Grover Unexpectedly Loses his Pants,” what kid isn’t going to keep reading?

I know I’m coming to this series extremely late, but there may be others even more behind the times than me. On the chance that you, reader, happen to be one of the twenty-five Americans left who haven’t read it yet, let me encourage you to look up Percy Jackson. I give this book my enthusiastic, whole-hearted approval. Be assured, I will be looking up the sequels. They are:

 

4 thoughts on “The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2005, Book Review

  1. I have to admit that those first paragraphs of the Lightning Thief creeped me out. It got me thinking, what if it was real?!?! I really like how Rick Riordan writes! The Battle of the Labrinth was my favorite book of the series.

    So if you got to choose who your immortal parent was, who would it be? I would want mine to be Athena (of course I wouldn’t trade my real mom for her HA! HA!).

  2. Boy, I don’t know what parent I’d pick. It’s been a several weeks and about 12 other books since I read this one. I’ve been reading way more than I post and I’m pretty backed up. (Counted 22 reviews I haven’t posted yet. That will even out as fall gets busy.) I’ve got the next book coming from the library. After I read it and refresh my memory, I’ll let you know! 🙂

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