Was it worth the read?: Percy Jackson and the Olympians 'The Lightning Thief'
‘Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.’
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: “The Lightning Thief,” a Y/A fantasy novel written by well-renowned author Rick Riordan, is a jam-packed story of adventure told in the voice of Percy Jackson, the main character, who the series is respectively named after. Originally published in June of 2005, the book was generally very well-received in the reading community, even earning ‘The Hampshire Book Award’ two years after it was released. It follows the story of how this troubled 12-year-old boy discovers that he is in fact half god and is almost immediately chased by monsters of all kinds after being wrongfully accused of stealing the Olympian god Zeus’ lightning bolt.
However, adventure aside, I believe that this book aimed to tackle more than just modern interpretations of popular Greek mythos. One of the very first things that we come to learn about the main protagonist of this novel is that he has ADHD and dyslexia, both learning disorders that make it difficult for a person to really focus on certain topics or read certain texts. This is not by mistake as Rick Riordan had purposely intended to give Percy these traits as a tribute to his son, who like Percy, was also diagnosed with these same disorders. These disorders were extremely important to the novel as they not only contributed to his impulsive personality, but they also served as a plot device that helped the story move forward, as the series of events in this novel would never have happened had it not been for the fact that he was neurodivergent. This is better seen during the tidbits that he shares about his school-life and the several schools he’d been expelled from over the years, both caused by his disorders and the dangers that comes with being half god.
I would also like to note that it’s heavily mentioned in the narrative that every demigod in camp half blood has these two disorders, which I found did a really good job in helping de-stigmatize the people who had them and helped convey the struggles they go through in a much wider scope, especially since it was written in the first person.
That being said, the narrative of the novel could easily be interpreted as a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance more than just a typical run-of-the-mill adventure book.
The novel starts with a young Percy Jackson explaining the series of events that had happened during his class field trip. How he had pushed the bully in his class Nancy Bobofit, how he had vaporized his teacher who turned out to be a Greek monster, and how after his pre-algebra teacher had gone missing, it seemed as if she had never existed at all. Nothing seemed to have been making sense to him, and this only gets worse when he eventually returns home after getting expelled from his boarding school. After a family trip with his mother involving a raging minotaur, he eventually ends up in Camp Half-Blood, a year-round camp for the half mortal children of Greek gods and goddesses. There, he finds out the true identity of his father, and he barely learns to come to terms with his own identity. To add insult to injury, he also finds out that he was accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt despite never having seen him. In a desperate attempt to save his mother, clear his name, and stop a potential war, he sets out on an important quest with his best friend, Grover Underwood, and headstrong strategist, Annabeth Chase.
When I decided to read this book, I had one of many questions in mind. Was the book good because it was genuinely well-written and immersive or was it only enjoyable because of the nostalgia and familiarity that it represented? I’m pleased to report that ultimately, it was the former. Usually when it comes to book series and all sorts of narrative media in general, we often only continue to consume content from it because we associate positive things about the media in question. Take for example some outdated anime or perhaps certain movies that upon rewatching, weren’t as fulfilling or satisfying as you remembered that they were. Despite only initially wanting to read the novel because I’d watched the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the book was infinitely better than its film counterpart, that it provided a more complex and riveting story overall.
Unlike in the movie where Percy was already sixteen years old, I was shocked to find that he actually started out as a middle schooler in the book. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the author was able to encapsulate the life and the personality of a twelve year old and do it so timelessly that none of the dialogue seemed forced or unnatural even almost two decades later. Notably, Riordan’s usage of captivating and gear turning titles for each chapter also encouraged me to continue and finish reading the book in its entirety, which as someone who leans more on the visual spectrum when it comes to art, greatly impacted how I now interact with long winded book chapters.
Circling back to the story of self acceptance that I wholeheartedly agree this novel could be categorized as, the novel depicts Percy’s struggles with himself and his family life in a very genuine light, capturing it in a way that is easily understandable for young readers, yet is handled and dealt with much care. By the end of the book, Percy learns to accept himself and his situation and even use it as an advantage, finding solace in the friends and community that he previously avoided and tried to ignore. Even though with the hurt and confusion that came with having ADHD, an absent father, and all of the other obstacles along the way, he was able to hone this frustration and use it to essentially make a hero of himself, of course with the help of his friends, his beloved mother, and his new ‘found family.’ I personally think that a lot of people could learn a lot from the twelve year old narrator and his daring adventures.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: “The Lightning Thief” was definitely worth the read, and is suitable for all ages and audiences. The novel definitely had a very adventurous plot, hilarious narration, and a heartfelt message that properly conveyed how difference is strength. As this book review comes to an end, I leave you fellow readers with nothing but my humble opinions and a quote from the book itself.
“If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.” – Percy Jackson
No matter what you choose to do today, whether or not you decide to read this book, always remember to live your life and live it for yourself. Don’t let your struggles and hardships define who you are, and always keep moving forward.