So technically, this is a re-read for me. However, I first read this book about eight years ago…I re-read it for a book club that I’m hosting with kids at my library. And I sadly came to realize that I was mostly remembering facts from the movie and not enough of the facts of the book. So, I re-read it super fast and then of course remembered how awesome it was and now want to read all of the Rick Riordan books (again and for the first time). I’m like a series or two behind. This guy writes super fast. Really super fast.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have the time to re-read this whole series for a while; however, it will happen. I’m contemplating dedicating one month of 2013 to re-reads, particularly for books I haven’t had the chance to review on the blog yet. Any way, if you haven’t read this before, know that this is book one in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. And this book was on the NY Times bestseller list for like a million weeks (I’m exaggerating, but really it was definitely more than 100 weeks). The audience is a little bit younger than what I would typically read, but I do love good middle grade books too.
By the time Percy is about to get kicked out of another boarding school, he’s kind of used to seeing things that he cannot explain. He gets used to getting into fights he cannot really explain either. And he rationalizes most of his problems as having to deal with the fact that he’s both dyslexic and ADHD. He has one best friend at his latest boarding school and he has a really amazing mom. He has an awful stepfather though who seems to always be drinking and always playing poker. Percy really does not understand how someone as nice as his mom continues to stay with someone as awful as his stepdad.
Percy begins to understand that all the weird stuff that happens around him has more to do with who his father is than it has to do with his learning disabilities. After a fight with a teacher on a field trip in NYC, Percy goes home to his mom. Together, they take a little vacation from the awful stepfather, but before Percy and his mom can really find any peace, the vacation is interrupted by Percy’s best friend, Grover, who explains that there are a lot of monsters after Percy.
Together, they all travel to Camp Half-Blood, where Percy should be safe from the monsters. But before they can even get there, they are all attacked by a minotaur, and no one knows what happens to Percy’s mom. At camp, Percy has to adjust to losing his mother, to being best friends with a satyr, to attending camp with demigods (the children of Greek gods), and to learning a lot about the world he never dreamed possible. At camp, it becomes clear that there are a lot of things Percy can’t do and because no one knows who his father is, he’s placed in Hermes’ cabin, the cabin of unknowns.
After a few incidents involving bullies though, it becomes clear that Percy’s father is Poseidon, who had actually made a vow with Zeus to not have any more children. And because Poseidon broke his vow, Zeus is blaming the theft of his missing lightning bolt on Percy. Apparently, god’s cannot steal from each other, but the children of gods can. And even though, everything is so new for Percy, he and his friends (Grover and Annabeth, the daughter of Athena) take on a dangerous mission.
They leave the protection of camp and travel cross-country to find the lightning bolt that they assume is with Hades in the Underworld. Their trip cross country is jam packed with battles, escapes from famous Greek legends like Medussa, epic fight scenes at historical landmarks like the arch in St. Louis and so much mythology like the trek to Mount Olympus, which is actually at the top of the Empire State Building in NYC. And Percy and his friends have a limited time to find the bolt before all out war erupts on Olympus.
The book is full of mythology, magic, flying shoes, action, and drama! It makes for one amazing start to a series. The characters are great! The camp is great. I loved how the cabins were divided up by gods. I loved how the kids all seemed real despite the fact that they weren’t. Despite the fact that they were training for battle at summer camp, they all still acted like kids (with bullies, selfishness, and strong friendships). I loved all the scenes outside of camp too, where Greek myth combined with an urban setting!
My favorite scene was probably when they went to the Underworld. It was such an interesting take on death. Oh, and when the kids get stuck in Vegas for a while, detouring their quest, I never once blamed them for their delay in their journey. It would have been so hard to leave a place with so many amazing free things!
It ended on a good note in regards to family situations and it opened up a lot of new possibilities with the gods too. Really, this is just such a fun, easy, and fast book to read! The only thing that still kind of gets to me (even after having it explained to me by avid fans at a book conference) is why Mount Olympus had to be in NYC. It’s explained as having to do with the western world. And I get that this book needed to stay national for Percy and his friends to believably do things in time, but still. Some international travel wouldn’t have been too bad in this book. And it still kind of confuses me how all the Greek gods would want to be anywhere but Greece.
Any way, I’m sure this book has some other flaws too, but I just have good memories and good experiences with it overall for myself and for its many fans. I give it a 9/10. And I might just be reading more Riordan soon.