The Lightning Thief stole my heart.

25 Jun

Book: The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
1st in the popular children’s series Percy Jackson & The Olympians

Origin: Impulse Purchase.

I’m a huge fan of Children’s literature. There’s something ultra satisfying about plunging into the epic battle of good vs. evil as seen through the eyes of a pre-teen. The quirky trials and tribulations a child goes through to become self-aware and learn the value of love and friendship and the horrors of real evil. I used to be embarrassed about it. I’m almost 30 and I read books written for 12 year olds. By choice. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to forget about things like what everyone else thinks and focus on my own interests. And darn-it, I love a good pre-teen adventure novel.

So recently, on one perfectly good evening, I met a friend for diner. As we left the restaurant, the sky cracked open and threw up on us. Without having been prepared with an umbrella or even appropriate shoes, we dove into the nearest B&N for cover. And since my bladder is the size of a peanut and since they always put the bathroom in the Children’s Section, well, I couldn’t help but get stuck pacing through the “Young Adult” aisle for 30 minutes. By the time the weather cleared, I had an armful of books and an empty wallet.

I had never heard of Percy Jackson & The Olympians until I saw a preview for “The Lightning Thief”, a Disney movie set to come out this summer (DVD release only it seems . . . hmm). Apparently, the series has been winning the hearts of pre-teens since 2005. I scooped up the first book because I was ready for a new Children’s novel and it seemed popular. It had a whole shelf to itself even! Flipping through a few pages, I decided the writing was decent and the cover art wasn’t totally awful. Really. That’s how my brain works sometimes.

Young Percy (short for Perseus) Jackson is a troubled sixth grader. Diagnosed with ADHD and kicked out of every school he’s ever attended since kindergarten, he’s lost all confidence in himself. Not only that, but mythological gods keep popping up and threatening his life on a regular basis.

A strange series of events lands Percy in a summer camp for kids just like him; Demi-Gods (affectionately called Half-Bloods). He quickly befriends some camp-mates and before long they embark on a dangerous quest to Hade’s underworld; they must find and return Zeus’s stolen Master Lighting Bolt and stop a war. Of course along the way Percy has to confront some deep philosophical questions about good and evil, his family history and where his friends’ loyalties lie.

Clearly Riordan has a deep passion for mythology and uses these books to instill a similar interest in children. I’ve always been a fan of mythology myself (partially why I picked up the book in the first place) and Riordan does a great job giving curious personalities to the gods of Greek myth. I especially liked the image of Ares as a tough biker with a penchant for practical jokes and a hot temper. Or Zeus, in his navy blue pin-striped suit and slicked back hair, sitting stoically next to his brother Poseidon, the laid back surfer wearing Tommy Bahama shorts.

While the story is pretty formulaic (and drops a lot of suspicious “Diet Coke” references), it does have a certain “cant-put-it-down” quality like any good adventure novel should. Around every bend there are new monsters and obstacles to overcome and the characters are certainly lovable and heroic. There’s a big, ugly, mean bully (whose probably harmless in the end), a sidekick best friend, an embarrassed love-struck girl with the inevitable crush, and the more-than-meets-the-eye, older, mysterious role model. The best thing about this book is that everyone has an interesting personal history – being the children of Greek gods and all – and they’re pretty resourceful when it comes to fighting evil (and each other).

The Lightning Thief was a fun summer read and if I were 12, it would probably motivate me to learn more about Greek mythology.

This Book’s Fate: Keep it. It might inspire me to write my own quirky adventure novel. Maybe I’ll grab the next book in the series from the library one of these days.

Up Next: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


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