Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Publication Date: June 28th, 2005

Percy Jackson has always been a troubled kid, but when literal monsters show up in his life, he learns that there are secrets his mom has kept from him.

Armed with this new knowledge, Percy finds himself in a safe place and a quest that has him chasing a thief. But the owner of the stolen object is more powerful than anything Percy can imagine.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Date Read: November 25, 2018

I first read this back in summer of 2014, when I was 16. Yes, I was very late to the hype, but I read it because one of my friends yelled at me repeatedly after he found out that I hadn't read the series. This time around, I read it because it was one of the books I had to read for Young Adult Literature last semester.

This book holds a special place in my heart, not only because I came to the series much later than most people, but also because this is part of the longest series that I've ever read. It was also the first time I was introduced to this much Greek mythology, and a main character who was so easily sarcastic.

One of the things we focused on when we read the book for class was how well this held up 13 years after being published. I enjoyed it just as much this time around because I got to spend time with some of my favorite characters and re-live one of my favorite stories ever. It was also a nice change after reading The Odyssey right before this and hating that book.

The plot was well-paced and consistent throughout the book, and despite now being nine years older than Percy, I didn't feel like there was that much of a disconnect in my ability to relate to him. Sure, that probably says something about me too, but it also shows Riordan's writing skills in being able to make a twelve-year old boy fun to read about even when I'm almost a decade older than him.

The humor and sarcasm is still one of my favorite things about this book, especially because it comes so naturally to Percy. It doesn't feel forced, and I always enjoy what he has to say and what he thinks. There are some times when it's clear that he's acting like a middle schooler, but given his age, I can't really blame him. Just because he's forced into hard situations like in this book, doesn't mean he'll give up his twelve-year old sense of humor.

Something that I realized I will defend quite heavily with this book are the choices that Riordan has made in the way he writes the book. We had several discussions about how ADHD was portrayed in the book and how it sounds like Riordan is against taking medicine for it, even if it could be helpful. Now, I don't have personal experience with ADHD, but I know several people who do struggle with it, and they haven't had many negative things to say about it when I've asked them about the portrayal. I'm not saying that I agree with the idea that ADHD should be left untreated or unmanaged if it requires more help, but I also am not in a position to fully make that kind of statement because I don't struggle with it personally.

Another thing we discussed was the fact that a lot of the bad guys in the book seem to be heavier-set and darker in skin color. It wasn't really something I had noticed either time that I read the book, but it brought up a good point that Riordan may have (consciously or unconsciously) been casting stereotypes on certain people because of their appearances. If that's something that bothers you, it's worth keeping in mind. But do also remember that this was written 13 years ago and it doesn't have the same consciousness that books do now about how much representation matters.

One of the last things we discussed was how little ethnic/cultural diversity there is within this book. If that's something else that bothers you, I can assure you that it gets a lot better as the series goes on and moves into its spin-off. But yes, there is a lack of diversity in this book and I am willing to admit that Riordan could have included more diverse characters when half the book is set in New York City, one of the most diverse cities that I've been to in America.

The end of the book set up really nicely for the rest of the series, and I found that I was one of the few students in class who consistently reminded other students that this was the first book in a five-book series, with another five-book spin-off. As much as we all wanted great resolutions, it wasn't going to happen yet because there was a lot more of the story that needed up be built up and a lot of growing that needed to happen for both the characters and Riordan as a writer. It was something good to keep in mind as I got to the ending because I wished that certain things were better resolved, even though I knew that there were other books in the series.

All of that being said, I greatly enjoyed reading this again, especially after first reading it four years ago. Re-visiting the story made me really want to re-read the whole series, and I think I might do that slowly over the course of this year.

I do really love Percy at the beginning of this series. Yes, he's immature and rash and irresponsible, but he's also twelve. I greatly enjoyed being in his head and hearing all the sarcastic comments that he made about what he was experiencing. The fact that he was able to find some humor in what he was going through made him even more likable as a protagonist, and it made it easy to want to continue on his future adventures with him.

Still love Annabeth as much as I did the first time around, though I will admit that I found her a little more annoying in the beginning. Reading about someone who hadn't quite grown out of the "I'm better than other girls because I'm smart" phase was a little frustrating, but I knew what kind of person she would grow into as the series progressed, and I enjoyed getting to see where she was starting from.

Grover is just as great as he always has been. He's just such a sweet friend and lovable guy, it's really hard not to think good things about him. I really wanted to start the next book in the series because I knew that he was one of the first characters we see in the opening chapter, and I needed to spend more time with him.

5 stars. If you somehow haven't read this yet, I think it's worth picking up. The writing is simple, and the characters might be young, but they're really great as the series progresses. It's really like watching kids grow up into adults, and I love that.

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