Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Review:Percy Jackson is your average twelve-year-old troublemaker. Going between different schools with ADHD and dyslexia, he suddenly discovers while on a field trip that one of his teachers is a demon-thing when she tries to kill him. A few chapters after that, he's spirited away to Camp Half-Blood, a training facility for children like him: demi-gods, half-bloods, children of a Greek god/goddess and a mortal parent. Percy is the son of one of the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades), which is a bad thing because those three have been barred from having children again after World War II. Zeus's lightning bolt, his great weapon, has been stolen and poor Percy is the main suspect. Thinking that Hades must have it, Percy, his satyr friend Grover, and Athena-born fellow half-blood Annabeth set off on a cross-country journey to reach Hades and get Zeus's bolt back before the summer solstice.
There are few narrative voices in fiction that have entertained me as much as Percy's. He tells the story almost faithfully and his little quips, combined with the funny imagery as events unfold, made the telling of the tale truly entertaining. Riordan obviously put a lot of hard work into The Lightning Thief. The powers of the half-bloods and their weaknesses (like the ADHD and dyslexia) are well-explained and make sense in the context of this novel and there were no glaring errors in his personal mythology that I saw. I was a little miffed that Nemesis, the goddess of revenge and divine retribution and also my favorite Greek mythological figure, was gender-bendered into a man because she is female, but that was only problem I had with that. Otherwise, it was all good.
This novel took many of my expectations and smashed them into dust. I have certain images in mind when I think of the Greek gods and goddesses and their appearances in this book- along with some of their personalities- both contradict those images. Like Poseidon's image, for a good example. The way he's described beforehand and just the thought of the Big Three god himself, one would expect him to look a lot more regal than he does when we finally meet him. His chosen appearance in garb you would expect to see a stereotypical Florida guy wearing is jarring in a fun way that will probably make you smile. Other examples include Charon in an Italian suit and Ares in lots of leather and biker gear.
I was interested in the story and kept reading without getting bored, but I just wasn't emotionally involved. I cared about how the story worked out and loved Percy's narration of his journey, but none of the characters mattered to me that much. If someone like Annabeth or Grover had died, I would have gone, "Huh. That sucks." I have this problem sometimes, but I know I'm capable of being emotionally involved in a book. I just need the right author who can make me feel.
While reading this, I was reminded of the Harry Potter series a few too many times to be comfortable. I did not come into this book expecting or wanting it to be like Harry Potter (because while I think those books are fun and all, I'm not obsessive about them and don't seek out books while hoping that they're just like that.) I don't quite feel like going into the similarities I found, but they were there and you'll notice them pretty easily.
At the end, I was a little puzzled because of Percy's mom. I understand why she was with Smelly Gabe: to protect Percy and hide her son's scent in Gabe's awful, overly human scent. Just a passing curiosity, but how did she know he smelled so spectacularly human? Did Poseidon point her to him? Once we reach the final pages of the novel, we discover that Gabe has abused her and Percy leaves her Medusa's head, which she uses to turn him to stone. So she's not brave enough to tell Gabe that she's moving out and wants a divorce once she comes back from being held hostage, but she has enough bravery to murder him? Because that is what she did. When she turned him to stone, he died and won't be coming back. The message of "abusive people get what they deserve" comes through loud and clear, but yeah... That whole thing bothered me a little.
(I saw the movie back in February when it came out, so my horrible affliction came into play while reading: I'm seeing the characters as the book makes me envision them through their descriptions, but I'm hearing the voices of the actors. That means that while I'm seeing twelve-year-olds kicking monster butt, I'm hearing eighteen-year-olds once they start speaking.)
While it was an entertaining read, I was unable to bring myself to care about the characters and certain parts of the story made me stare in a manner any bystander would have interpreted to mean, "You're kidding, right?" I didn't mention any of those certain parts because this is a children's book, after all, so it gets a little bit of leeway. It has the right to get a little sillier than I'm used to. I'm not feeling too inclined to read the sequels, but if I find them one day and really need something to read, I might pick them up.