Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Lightning Thief

Riordan, Rick. (2005) The Lightning Thief. New York: Miramax. ISBN 0786838655.

Percy Jackson is an awkward kid. A trouble maker. But he doesn’t necessarily mean to be, but he just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. When he gets kicked out of yet ANOTHER boarding school, his mother takes him to spend the summer at the beach. When a strangely tempestuous, freak storm comes upon them, Percy’s mother decides it’s time to head home and it’s just about then that Percy’s best friend Grover reveals that he is, in fact, a satyr. As if that wasn’t enough for one day, as they are making their escape from the storm, they are suddenly attacked by a strange, and very LARGE, creature which ends up being a Minotaur.

Percy’s mother is killed in the attack, but he manages to get away. Just far enough to make it to Camp Half-Blood where he discovers he is a demi-god, half human and half god. Percy learns that he is the son of Poseidon, god of water, and that water heals him.

He begins to train and actually excels at it. Finally, he is given a quest—a great honor—in which he must find who stole Zeus’ thunderbolt and where the heck it is. He is warned that he, and his friends Annabeth (Athena’s daughter) and Grover, will be in constant and grave danger—Zeus’ and Poseidon’s enemies are everywhere. In the end, he must cross the United States, not to mention the River Styx, before he finds the missing lightning. But he does and restores peace to the god.

All’s well that ends well. Percy’s mother was not, in fact, killed by the accident and now gives him the choice to stay at Camp Half-Blood year round.

The language is accessible and the plot is action-packed. However, this book didn’t read YA to me. In fact, it was even tamer than Harry Potter most of the time. Maybe it was the length and the fight scenes that made someone think it might be YA. Or maybe it’s geared to the earlier, middle, ages. I don’t know. As a story, it was a fun read, with nearly constant action and conflict…

BUT, In My Honest Opinion, it did seem like a thinly veiled mythology lesson at times. A fun and fictionalized lesson, but a lesson nonetheless. Sometimes, didacticism seemed to push back the curtain of plot and character.

Still, I’ll read the sequel.

Reviews for The Lightning Thief (per

From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5-9–An adventure-quest with a hip edge...There's lots of zippy review of Greek myth and legend, and characters like Medusa, Procrustes, Charon, and the Eumenides get updates. Some of the Labors of Heracles or Odysseus's adventures are recycled, but nothing seems stale, and the breakneck pace keeps the action from being too predictable. Percy is an ADHD, wise-cracking, first-person narrator. Naturally, his real quest is for his own identity. Along the way, such topics as family, trust, war, the environment, dreams, and perceptions are raised. There is subtle social critique for sophisticated readers who can see it. Although the novel ends with a satisfying conclusion (and at least one surprise), it is clear that the story isn't over. The 12-year-old has matured and is ready for another quest, and the villain is at large. Readers will be eager to follow the young protagonist's next move.

From Booklist
Gr. 6-9. The escapades of the Greek gods and heroes get a fresh spin in the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a contemporary 12-year-old New Yorker who learns he's a demigod. ...Riordan's fast-paced adventure is fresh, dangerous, and funny. Percy is an appealing, but reluctant hero, the modernized gods are hilarious, and the parallels to Harry Potter are frequent and obvious. Because Riordan is faithful to the original myths, librarians should be prepared for a rush of readers wanting the classic stories.


SLJ Best Book
NYT Notable Book
Child Magazine Best Book
TLA Bluebonnet Award Nominee

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