The Demigod in Me Made Me Write This: A Percy Jackson Review
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Welcome to the first ever blog post of Reading Has Ruined My Life!
Deciding what my kick off post should be was a challenging decision for me; mainly because there are so many books that I love. But one book trumps them all: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
The first time I ever read this book was back in 2013 before the god awful movie came out. I was in middle school at the time, and my best friend recommended me this book. All she told me about the book was that it was based on Greek mythology, and had a film coming out that summer. She then proceeded to show me a picture of Logan Lerman… who I then fell in love with.
Listen, I have a type and that type is dark hair and bright blue/green eyes.
Anyway, enough of how I like my men to look. Onto the book!
Originally published in 2005, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief tells the story of Percy Jackson, a young boy with ADD and dyslexia, as he begins his summer vacation back home in New York City with his mother Sally. The pair intend to make the most of the summer despite Percy having been kicked out of his sixth school in six years. (Cut to me obnoxiously singing “Good Kid” from the Percy Jackson musical all day. Also, hi, who wants to go with me to see the Percy Jackson musical before it closes?)
But being the protagonist of a fantasy story, Percy isn’t allowed to have a nice summer, let alone an easy life considering that one of his substitute teachers tried to kill him in the MET during a field trip prior to him being kicked out of his latest school. Instead, Percy must face a series of harrowing events on the first night of summer vacation. And this is just to make it to safety in a summer camp known as Camp Half-Blood where other children like him train to thrive in the real world. As it turns out, Percy is demigod, the child of a mortal and god, hence why his life has not been easy.
Once at camp, Percy discovers that he is actually the son of the sea god Poseidon. And on top of that, Zeus believes that our protagonist was the one who stole his lightning bolt. Wanted dead or alive by the king of the gods, Percy is given a quest to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt by the summer solstice. With his friends Grover, a satyr and Percy’s protector, and Annabeth, a daughter of Athena and all-around badass, the trio sets out to travel across the country to find the lighting bolt and the true thief. What could possibly go wrong?
Obviously a lot of stuff does go wrong, but let’s keep this as spoiler free as possible.
I don’t think I can compliment Rick Riordan enough on his writing. Nine times out of ten, I prefer to read urban fantasy instead of high fantasy, mainly because I enjoy seeing how an author blends fantasy into the real world; the Percy Jackson series is one of the best examples of this. Riordan masterfully blends the Greek gods into the modern day with Chiron appearing in a wheelchair to disguise his centaur body, and there being a literal waiting room to make it to the underworld. To top that off, each myth that Riordan uses in this book ties into the story so well; so much so that readers of all ages can learn Greek mythology from this book without even realizing it.
Not to mention, the characters are all fully fleshed out from the start. Readers automatically know what type of person Percy is from the opening page of the book:
"Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.
If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened." (Riordan 1).
Percy’s voice is so strong in this opening. He is presented as sarcastic and snarky, yet he is selfless and caring. This opening is presented as a warning to readers about being a half-blood. There isn’t any sugarcoating in the opening, he fully says that most half-bloods end up dying horrible deaths; there isn't any lying and saying that being a half-blood is great, he presents straight forward facts. And if anyone doubts the Percy’s humor, just read the chapter titles. My personal favorites are “Three Old Ladies Knit the Socks of Death” and “I Ruin a Perfectly Good Bus.”
But like I said, all the characters in The Lighting Thief are fully fleshed out from the start. When Percy first meets Annabeth, he thinks of her as a princess based on her appearance. Upon actually speaking with her though, it’s clear to him that she isn’t just a pretty face. As a daughter of Athena, she is highly intelligent and analytical with a passion for architecture, but she still has her fears and problems which readers learn throughout the book.
Then there is Grover. Sweet, anxious Grover. This poor satyr just can’t catch a break. From the first time meeting him, he is always on the look out for monsters, giving him some serious anxiety. But when his friends are in trouble, he isn’t afraid to step up to the plate and help them, even though he hates fighting. And despite his fears, he is a dreamer with plans on finding the long lost god Pan.
What I love most about all these characters is that they aren’t afraid to show emotion. Annabeth is always in control, with both her emotions and the quest, yet she has a panic attack near the end of the book. Grover cries when he is upset, and does so a few times throughout the course of The Lightning Thief, as well as throughout the rest of the series. And Percy loses his mom early on in the book causing to go through many of the stages of grief; namely shock and denial, pain and guilt, and anger. There are so many books out there where the main characters seem to ignore most emotions, which really hinders the book. But that doesn’t happen in the Percy Jackson series. Readers see every character reach a breaking point, each character has an actual character arch, and has highs and lows. Most importantly, they all react like actual human beings instead of emotionless androids.
I honestly don’t have many negatives with this book. Listen, I am a Percy Jackson stan! This book can do no wrong for me. But I majored in English Literature, I spent money and four years of my life on how to analyze a book; no book is perfect.
My main issue with the book is just how often the trio run into monsters. I know that Rick Riordan intentionally did this as a reference to the Greek epics like The Odyssey and The Iliad, but some of the situations the Percy gang get involved in are unnecessary. The main situation I’m referring to happens in chapter 17, “We Shop for Water Beds,” and yes, I’m basically referring to the entirety of this chapter.
Crusty is so unnecessary. Most of the other monster run-ins have some reason to happen or some payoff, but this one is literal filler. All Crusty wants to do is stretch the gang to death. And not even because of who they are, he literally says that he does this to anyone who isn’t six foot and don’t fit his beds properly. Oh yeah, did I mention that he wants to stretch the trio to death because they don’t properly fit his beds; that’s the legit reason. Again, most monster run-ins have a payoff, and this one doesn’t. Crusty is just another monster for the gang to face before finding out who the villain is.
The Percy Jackson series is such an easy one to lose one’s self in. The book captivates readers from the first page with its humor, and just how likable and relatable Percy is. The zaniness of the quest makes me laugh every time I read this story; despite me knowing all the jokes from constant rereading. And to top that off, the real-life struggles that the characters face are extremely universal that readers from various types of backgrounds can resonate with the characters.
Honestly, anytime I’m feeling down, or just need a break from reality, I find myself taking this book off the shelf. The Percy Jackson series has been a favorite of mine for so long that I honestly don’t know where I would be without it. I had always been an avid reader before picking The Lightning Thief up for the first time, but this series was the one that fully cemented my love for books.