By: Chloë Williams, Columnist
As an avid fantasy reader, and someone looking for a bit of a light read during such a stressful time, I found myself gravitating towards the Percy Jackson series by author Rick Riordan. I had always received recommendations for this book, and was aware that it did have a strong following of loyal fans. Without much to deter me from the series, I ordered my copy and nestled in for a new journey into the world of young adult literature.
The first thing that struck me about the novel was its similarity to the Harry Potter series. One cannot help but make a connection between two snarky young boys with a less than positive home life, who start doing things they can’t explain. There are houses to be sorted into, brainiac female best friends to meet, and animals to let out of zoos. The comparison is there. However, make no mistake. Percy Jackson is his own distinct character with his own adventures.
Something that makes Percy Jackson unique is his exploration of the more tragic parts of his life at a young age. He is acutely aware of the abusive relationship his mother has with his stepfather. Though he is only twelve years old, he still processes his mother’s danger and even tries to protect her from his stepfather on multiple occasions.
Percy once watched his mother and stepfather get into an argument about eating blue foods- his mother said that there were blue foods, and his stepfather said there was no such thing. From then on, Percy makes a point to eat as many blue foods as he can in order to stand in solidarity with her. He even turns his soda blue for no other reason, but to honor her.
Percy is also very upfront with the reader about his bullies at school, his struggles with ADHD, and confides in the reader that even though he puts on a cool outer shell about switching schools so frequently, he is actually quite frustrated and disappointed.
It is fascinating learning about Percy from his own point of view because he is so mature and self-aware. Riordan succeeds where many others fail at writing from the perspective of children. They see and comprehend a lot more than many writers give them credit for, and Percy is no exception. However, what makes him entirely likeable is his overwhelming sense that everything will just be fine.
When Percy arrives at a summer camp of half-bloods (half mortal, half god), Camp Half-Blood, he is mostly unaware of his origins, and has no idea that the Greek gods are still alive and thriving. There is a house for each Greek god, and Percy must wait for his father to claim him before he can join a house officially.
However, he soon learns about the three abandoned cabins, belonging to the three most powerful Gods- Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. It is forbidden for these gods to have children, as they are often much more powerful than any half-blood can handle, and it is impossible for them to live a normal life. Percy eyes these abandoned cabins, trying his hand at menial camping activities. That is, until an out-of-control game of capture the flag leads him to learning the truth about his father and gaining the most desired gift anyone can receive at camp Half-Blood- a way out.
It is fascinating to observe this group of mis-matched kids deal with their reality of being half-human, half-god. While some do embrace their gifts, many of the students just want to live a normal life, go to school, and see their families again.
There are so many fantasy books where the characters are excited to find their new fantastical home. Meanwhile, Percy’s new best friend Annabeth has been waiting for years to finally be given a chance to escape back to a semi-normal life. She is even willing to risk her life going on a quest to the Underworld with Percy to do so.
Percy, Annabeth, and their satyr friend Grover get into much mischief and mayhem on the way to the Underworld, but the real treat is watching an overconfident, and at times apathetic, Percy muster his way through a new part of his life that he isn’t even sure if he wants to claim. His conversations with Annabeth and Grover about what is really important- personal goals, family, friends, remind the audience that a change of scenery won’t fix the real problems.
If the thought-provoking and utterly real characters were not enough to endear you to the series, Riordan welcomes his host of epic battles between Greek gods and goddesses, budding romance, evil witches, time-bending, and strange creatures to the mix.
Do yourself a favor, all my Potterheads and fantasy-lovers out there- get yourself a copy of The Lightning Thief. You’re about to find your next favorite easy-reader.