Sunday, May 23, 2010

BooK Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I'm back with another book review.  I've heard so much about the Percy Jackson books I decided to buy the first one, The Lightning Thief.  Umm.  Well, I read it all the way through, and then went back and read parts of it over again.  It is one of those books I didn't like but had to finish to see how it ends.  I didn't like it for several reasons;

First, I'm not into this kind of fantasy.  Actually, I'm not much into fantasy at all...I mostly like things like The Bridge of Terabithia, where there is at least some realism in it.

Second, I've never been too impressed by the Gods of Olympia ( ducks head and waits for thunder) or by Greek mythology in any form.

Third,  well, let me tell you what the book is about before I go further.  Percy Jackson is a 12 year old 6th grader who is dyslexic and ADHD, is a terrible student and is about to get expelled from his fifth or sixth school, most of them specifically for 'troubled kids.'  He's never known his father, and his stepfather is a lout who regular does nothing but play poker and beat on Percy's mother.

Suddenly, he becomes the star player in a world of Greek gods and mythical monsters, all of whom seem to be out to get him for no reason he can figure out.  His best friend in school turns out to be a satyr, his Latin teacher is really a centaur, and worst of all, Percy discovers he is a Half-Blood...the son of a god, Poisidan, and his mortal mother.  To make matters even more complicated, he is sent to a half-blood camp to be trained by others like himself, and there manages to anger the gods and then is accused of stealing Zeus' master lightning bolt.  He and his two friends have just 10 days to find the bolt, return it to Zeus, and get Percy off the hook.

The concept of this book is great, and I'm sure a lot of kids love it.  I'm even more confident that those who see the movie, and DON'T read the book, will like it even more.

BUT:  being a children's writer myself, there were a lot of things that struck me wrong.  One of the main things was that Percy's character came off as someone a lot older than 12.  He just overcame his problems and obstacles too easily.  He handled his new-found sword as though he'd been practicing with it for years.  He defeats one monster after another with little thought or effort.  He always seems to know where danger lurks. He goes one on one with Ares, the God of War, and defeats him.  Really?  Hmmm.  Hopefully, the Gods aren't reading this book, or we all might have some 'splaining to do !  The result of that was that a lot of the excitement was lost, because if Percy can defeat the God of War so easily, there doesn't seem like much is left to the imagination as to what he can or cannot do in the rest of the book.

The second thing I couldn't relate to is the voice.  Percy just doesn't 'sound' like a 12 year old, nor do the other kids.  They all, but especially Percy, sound like an adult who's trying to sound like a 12 year old.  I didn't feel there was much distinction between the voices, either.

And then...there is the resemblance to the Harry Potter books.
1)  Percy, like Harry, is half mortal and half-god ( half-wizard.)
2) Percy has two friends, Annabeth and Grover ( Hermoine and Ron.)
3) Percy and his friends have a method of invisibility, Annabeth's cap ( cloak of invisibility)
4. Percy is sent away to a "summer camp" where there are other 'half bloods' like him ( Hogwarts Academy)
5.  The camp has individual cabins ( Houses) which compete against each other in strange games.
6.  The winner of the famous Capture the Flag ( Quittich) gets to hang their cabin banners all over camp.
7.  One of the cabins house the "mean kids" that Percy gets into trouble with ( Slytherin.)

Okay, the kids that love Harry will most likely love Percy almost as much, and they won't care about these little things I listed above, and in fact, I seriously doubt that they will even recognize them.  I guess it takes another kids' writer to pick up on things like that, but it really grated on me.  The funny thing is...I don't usually "analyze" books while I'm reading them.  I prefer just getting into the book and letting it take me away from my reality.  But the elements in this one were so obvious, it didn't take any real analysis to discover them.

There are 6 or 7 more of the Percy Jackson books, but I won't be reading them.  This kind of fantasy is enough for me in one book.  However...I am wondering if the other books are clones of Harry Potter, too...

If you read the book, let me know what you think.