The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1), by Rick Riordan

I had avoided this book for a while, order because I didn’t really like the packaging. I also didn’t think I’d be that interested in it. It took a while, but enough people on the internet told me that they were actually kind of fun that I bought book 1. Not surprisingly, I now have no idea why I refused to read it to assiduously. I mean, it ain’t great literature, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.

Perseus (Percy) Jackson is in sixth grade at a boarding school for ‘special’ students; aside from the fact that he’s been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, he’s been kicked out of several boarding schools prior to this one. On a field trip, one of his teachers goes crazy and attacks him. He fends her off with a pen that turns into a sword, given to him by his Latin teacher. After that, no one remembers that this teacher ever existed, and Percy wonders if he’s gone crazy. Not hardly likely — after a few days at the seashore during summer break with his mother, he is attacked again, and finally finds safety at Camp Half-Blood — a camp for heroes. That is — heroes in the Greek sense; ones with a parent who is a god. Percy is one of these heroes. His overall problem, however, is that for some reason, Zeus (yes, THAT Zeus) thinks that Percy has stolen his lightning bolt (yes, THAT lightning bolt). So, guess what Percy gets to do.

Percy is our first-person narrator, and he’s funny without being intentionally smart-alecky. His observations and recollections are phrased in ways that I would expect from a twelve-year-old boy; his explanations of Greek myths are exceptionally amusing, especially since he had no idea why his Latin teacher was forcing all them down his throat. The rest of the characters are a bit stereotypical, but being that they’re all based on the original archetypes, it was fine with me. I especially liked Ares, who is naturally a Harley rider, complete with tons of leather and tattoos.

Another aspect I enjoyed was Percy’s dyslexia (explained as his brain being hard-wired for Ancient Greek, not English). It felt as if the author had some personal experience with dyslexia, and knowing that he’s an educator, I’d guess it’s true. The ADHD was explained as his senses constantly being on battle alert; I believe this is an explanation for some ADHD sufferers, that they’re throwbacks to old-style warriors. I don’t know how much I believe of it in the non-Riordan world, but within the story, it fit well. In some ways, I think this would be a good book for a dyslexic to read (or hear); it’s awfully sympathetic to them.

The plot draws on many Heroic Quest storylines, but with a purpose, and to good intent. I quite enjoyed it. A few things were easily guessable (such as the identity of Percy’s father, and the eventual Villain), but they didn’t interrupt my enjoyment of the adventure. Ben (my boyfriend) also suggested that there was a sense of American Gods (Neil Gaiman) to the story, with the reinterpretation of the Greek gods in a more modern context, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. We didn’t see all the gods, but the ones we saw seemed to have adapted to the twenty-first century.

The one, very minor problem that I had with this book was that Percy has black hair and green eyes. This really isn’t THAT common a color combination, and it seems to me that Percy at least has it for legitimate reasons. It’s still the same coloring, however, as another boy wizard that we all know and love, and it jarred me just a bit.

In any case, I’ve seen this book as recommended for reluctant readers, as well as boys, and while I’d recommend it to both groups, I see no reason not to recommend it to anyone else interested in YA/middle readers literature. There are two sequels, on the to-be-read list. The Lightning Thief gets a solid 4/5 stars.

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