Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Lightning Thief (Book Review)

Author: Rick Riordan
Year: 2005
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Reading Level: Intermediate

Series: First in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (followed by The Sea of Monsters)

Plot Summary: Percy Jackson never meant to vaporize his math teacher.  But all the things Percy Jackson never means to do make a lot more sense when he learns he's the son of a Greek god.  Once he's sent off on a quest to reclaim Zeus's stolen lightning bolt, he'll have to battle both gods and monsters to prevent war and save his family. 

Award/s: American Library Assocation (ALA) Notable Book (2005), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2005), New York Times Notable Book (2005), Young Readers' Choice Award (2008), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (2009) Askews Torchlight Award (UK) Winner, South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2008), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Tween Book (2008), Nene Award (2008), Massachusetts Children's Book Award (2008), Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Grades 6-8 (2007), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader's Choice Award for Intermediate (2008), Iowa Teen Award (2009), American Library Association Notable Book Award, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2009), Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books List

Red Flags: Some scary mythological creatures and fantasy violence.  Unpleasant tween bullies.  Lots of illegitimate children.

-The fact that these half-blood kids are illegitimate and have at least one indifferent parent could be a sticky issue for some readers and their parents.  It's basically glossed over and maybe kids wouldn't think about it too much, but parents should probably bear that in mind.

My Rating: B+
I had a few thoughts going into this book: 1) I've heard both good and so-so reviews from friends 2) the movie was SO BORING 3) I've been wanting to read this for years.  Keeping all that in mind, I really tried to be unbiased as I read it.

And what do you know, I actually quite enjoyed it.  Yes, the Harry Potter parallels are absurdly obvious and frequent.  Someone really should have suggested some tweaks, just to set them apart a little more.  The Greek mythology idea is quite fun and creative, but so many HP similarities takes away from that a bit.  

But as I said, I enjoyed this book.  It's not a perfect book by any means--sometimes I got lost in the action scenes, sometimes the characters were conveniently dumb, sometimes the modern twists to mythological things didn't jive (like the metal detector-type machines in the Underworld).  But I've always liked Greek mythology and so that was a big plus for me.  I liked the characters overall, even if they didn't amaze me.  It was a fun read, with some fun elements and I'd like to keep reading the series to see what happens. 

Now I've done that thing again where I say I like something and then go on to point all the things that aren't particularly great about it.  Well.  It wasn't an amazing book, but it was a fun book and I liked it more as I went along.  I liked that the content level matched the reading level.  I liked that Percy Jackson loves his mama.  I can imagine younger boy readers loving this book (girls too of course, but boys in particular).  It has a nice mix of adventure, mystery and mythology.

Two SPOILER caveats about the content:
-I thought it was kind of extreme for Percy's character to kill off Crusty, even if he'll just reappear again in the future.  Heat of the moment self-defense is one thing--this was calculated.

-I thought it was even more extreme for Percy's mother (who never gets angry and is the nicest woman ever) to use Medusa's head on her husband, terrible though he is.  That left a bad taste in my mouth.

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