Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Lightning Thief

By Reviewer Greta
Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Primary Audience/age group: Young adult
Genre: adventure/fantasy
# Of pages: 375
Publisher: Hyperion/Scholastic
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: (from book jacket) “Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of this troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: He must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.”

Review: My 12-year-old son raved about these books, so I thought I should look into them. At first, I thought I really was not going to like this book. The main character, Percy, seemed to be too much of a smart-aleck, and the book seemed like one of those stereotypical “magical action” stories that have sprung up everywhere with the popularity of the Harry Potter series. But I have to confess that the book grew on me – I came to like Percy a lot, and I thought the story, while it had some definite similarities to the Potter series, was imaginative and thought-provoking. I will definitely put the other books in the series on my “to read” list.

Rating: 3, for the overall premise of the Greek gods being real and the circumstances around Percy’s birth.

Although Percy is what most people would label a “troublemaker,” his adventures bring out a number of good qualities. He and a friend overcome the long-standing rivalry between their parents to work together to solve problems; he shows a lot of loyalty to his friends and his mother; he is concerned about the safety of a human family during one of his battles with a monster and tries to save them; he has compassion for and is kind to some mistreated animals. One of Percy’s friends (a satyr) presents a good message about caring for the environment, without being overbearing. The book presents some thoughtful observations about death without breaking out of the character’s viewpoint.

Spiritual Elements: The book is built on the premise that the gods of Greek mythology are real and living in New York City. They control weather and events, and the characters in the book give part of each meal as a sacrifice to the gods. There are a couple of references to God that I need to take a little time to think through – I read it that Riordan is reminding us, “this is just a story,” in an effort to avoid controversy. However, some parents may be uncomfortable with the idea of even pretending the Greek gods were real.

Violence: Percy fights a lot of battles against mythical monsters, so some violence is inherent in the story. However, even when there are injuries, I don’t think the violence is so graphic that readers would be disturbed by it. There are some monsters that might scare younger readers a little.

I don’t remember any objectionable language.

Sexual Content: The story itself doesn’t involve any sexual content. Percy’s friend Annabeth has a crush on another character and blushes anytime he’s around, but that’s the extent of sexual behavior. However, there is the issue of Percy’s parentage – he is the result of the union between a Greek god and a human woman, and Percy has a lot of questions and internal conflict over that situation. Some parents might be uncomfortable with this aspect of the story.

Other: Percy has a rather rebellious attitude toward authority. I was also a little disturbed by one aspect at the end of the book (spoiler alert!). Percy has come into possession of Medusa’s head, which is a deadly weapon. When tempted to use it on his abusive and completely disagreeable step-father, he doesn’t. However, he leaves it at home and his mother uses it after he’s back at camp to rid herself of her husband. I thought that sent a bad message about revenge. On the other hand, I thought Riordan did well with showing the effect of a father’s absence on a child (not just Percy), and of giving a little boost to children with ADHD (which Percy has).

Rating: 3, for the overall premise of the Greek gods being real and the circumstances around Percy’s birth.

Recommendation: If parents are not turned off immediately by the premise of the story, I think this is a good adventure story for kids. It has the action that keeps a reader turning pages, but it’s a “smart” read – by which I mean Riordan blends in thought-provoking issues like responsibility to the environment, parental responsibility, and the impact of one’s actions on others. Percy is a likeable character who I think has the potential to really mature across this series. I also greatly enjoyed seeing how Riordan adapted the Greek myths to the 21st-century world. It made me wish I had brushed up on my mythology before reading the book, so I could catch the references as he was telling the story!


Tyler said...

This is a great book. You have to be very carful not to be obsorbed into the Greek mytholgy. Just remember that it is a fiction book and series. I liked them so much that it onley took me 2 days to read some of them. I think Percy is a very likable charactor. I would recomend this series to anyone willing to stay faithfull to the true perfect God.

Anonymous said...

Its a great book/seris and by the way its 5 books not 4.

Dreamer said...

This is my favorite series. It probably will always be because of Percy's genuine personality and sarcastic/witty comments.

Georgie said...

LOL!!! Love this book!!!

Jessica said...

My whole family thinks these books are amazing! I actually learned more about greek mythology and the history in these than I did from some of my history books!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and ideal books for children aging from 10-11 and up. I am a parent with 3 children myself, and I feel that this book is absolutely perfect for learning mythology, better than most others, and I'm sure kids don't want to be stuck reading a textbook when they could be reading an adventurous Fiction novel. It does not matter whether what religion you are (@ Tyler on that), since Ancient Greek ways of worshiping the gods are not practiced anymore unless you visit Greece.

SillyGirl said...

This is a very wonderful book. To me, the reader sort-of grows with Percy (Percy is in a new school year in each book). There isn't a whole lot of violence and this series never swears (unless you count remarks such as, "Oh my gods", which refers to Greek mythology). I wouldn't recommend watching the movie first, though, because it has added scenes which may confuse readers.