The Lightning Thief

lightning thiefI mentioned a little while ago that I’m having a book club with my kids this summer, each one separately. The first book I read with my 9-year-old son (chosen from my list) was The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, and we both thought it was fantastic. This time, it was my son’s turn to choose anything he wanted to read, and he chose Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. (I can’t tell you what his reaction is yet! I just finished it and handed it over!)

If there’s anyone left out there who hasn’t read this series, the premise is that Greek/Roman gods still exist and live in America, having followed “Western civilization” wherever the main center of it might have gone. (*cough* Neil Gaiman *cough*) The gods are basically who they always were, having arguments and rivalries and curses and (this is the important part) affairs with mortals, which means you also have demigods. This brings us to our narrator, Percy (Perseus) Jackson. Percy knows nothing about his special nature. He just thinks he’s a troubled kid with some eerie experiences who can’t stay in a boarding school longer than a year. Cue more eerie experiences, including a math teacher who turns out to be one of the Kindly Ones, and he’s learning a lot about the gods, his own true nature, and his quest to find Zeus’s missing lightning bolt.

This book was almost 400 pages long, and I read it in less than 24 hours. It was a very fast-paced, exciting, and fun late elementary or early middle-school read. Percy teams up with Grover, a satyr (who, naturally, likes to eat tin cans), and Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and heads out across America on buses and trains lest Zeus zap him out of the sky. The most fun part of this was the throwaway stuff. If you know a lot of Greek mythology, you’ll catch quite a few references Riordan doesn’t bother to explain, or doesn’t explain until much later. If any of you have read all of these, does that kind of thing continue? I have to think he used up a lot of that in the first book. Not the mythological framework, of course, just the constant, fun barrage of references you have to be knowledgeable enough to get.

The other thing that was very creative was the notion that if you’re diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, you’re probably a demigod. Your eyes are hardwired to read ancient Greek; your hyperactive reflexes are meant to keep you alive on the battlefield. Forget the meds. Look into your true parentage.

The book was not terribly well-written. Lots of one-sentence paragraphs, lots of fading to black. It didn’t have a deep, good-hearted moral center the way the Harry Potter books do, made of friendship and loyalty — just kind of quest and Big Good vs Big Bad. A bit superficial. But I’d be willing to believe that develops over the course of the books. All in all, I’m not sorry I read it, and I’ll have fun discussing it with my son, but I’ve read better. Anyone want to encourage me to read the sequels?

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9 Responses to The Lightning Thief

  1. Somya Sahni says:

    Read the sequels! They are really really interesting .! My favourites the 4 th part , the battle of the labyrinth !
    I felt that the series were different from what I have always read , and they make u imagine at a very high degree !

  2. Jeanne says:

    My son and daughter and I loved the sequels, and thought the details you had more fun with if you knew the mythology continued.

    • Jenny says:

      That’s really reassuring to hear, since that was just about the most fun part for me. I really liked the Lotus Casino.

  3. I read the first two some years ago, and felt much like you do – they’re not the best written books, but they were entertaining and page-turners. But then I never read any more of them, which says something I guess. I think maybe I should go back and continue the series sometime because i suspect when my son gets a little older he would like them. Let us know what your son thinks about it!

  4. russell1200 says:

    I read the series to my son when he was younger. He liked it just fine.

    The author started taking his mythology a little more seriously as time went on. As folks above noted, the latter books in the series are better reads.

  5. With respect to Neil Gaiman, American Gods was published in 2001, before the first of this series.Sounds good fun for boys of the right age though.

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