Percy Jackson doesn’t quite fit in at school. ADHD, dyslexia, and a record of being kicked out have him certain that his future holds more of the same. All of that changes in the summer after 6th grade. After losing his mother during encounter with a Minotaur, Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, the residential camp for children with one mortal parent and one Olympian parent. Shortly after arriving, Poseidon claims Percy as his son and sends him on a quest. Storms, and the possibility of war, have been brewing over the past several months because Zeus’ master lightning bolt had been stolen, and time is running out. In a matter of days, Percy sets out on a cross-country adventure to find and return the master bolt with help from his friends Grover, a satyr, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena and rival of Poseidon. Together, they defeat monsters and assist gods while traveling from New York to Los Angeles to uncover the mystery of the missing bolt. With no time to spare, Percy returns the master bolt to Olympus, but uncovers a much more sinister and powerful conspiracy to upset the temporary calm.
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is the first in a young-adult fantasy series by Rick Riordan chronicling the adventures of half-blood children. Perhaps the strongest aspect of Riordan’s writing is how he aptly matches his characters with his target audience. Riordan creates in Percy a flawed and relatable hero, bringing together the contradictions in human behavior, ability, and relationships with others. Percy does not excel in school, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn. He struggles to come to terms with his relationship with his father, but still seeks to make peace with the arrangement. Riordan also pays tribute to the desire to bring fictional world to life. Early in the first chapter, Riordan acknowledges Percy’s belief that he had been normal, ostensibly suggesting that other young adult readers might one day find themselves at Camp Half-Blood as well. Contained within the boundaries of the camp and the time frame of the summer, the alternate reality of Camp Half-Blood invites adventure, danger, and excitement. Everything about the story seems to be perfectly feasible, and a perfect escape.
First, kudos to Riordan for conveying such a thorough knowledge of Greek gods and goddesses in such an exciting story. The combination of education and entertainment sets the book apart from others in the young adult fantasy genre. However, in his quest to thrill readers, I felt that the plot moved along so quickly nothing else mattered. It jumped from one adventure to the next with minimal reflection and integration into a deeper story line. This called for an unavoidable comparison with Harry Potter. I remember certain big events in the first Harry Potter, but don’t recall the entire first novel being a continuous series of life-threatening situations. Overall, though, it was a very enjoyable novel. I’ll probably read the second one. Eventually.