Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Rating: PG (violence)

Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. 

This is going to be more of my thoughts on the series than a regular review. Because as far as a literary analysis goes, this series gets 4-5 points all the way, and I don't want to keep saying the same things over and over again. Addy, don't get onto me for not following the system.

"I like it except..."

A few weeks ago, a friend and I had a conversation about Mulan and Disney movies, and how for pretty much all of them it's "I like it except..." For instance, I like Mulan except the whole ancestor worship thing. But I realized the same is true for most fiction. For Percy Jackson, I like it except the fact that the assumption that Greek gods are real denies the existence of the One true God.

That's a pretty big except, the same one that caused me to hate Disney's Hercules. It's not one that can be reconciled. Indeed, if I didn't have Christian friends who like the series, I never would have read the books, let alone bought them. It's a tough call. I don't have any more problem with the Percy Jackson series than I do with learning about the actual myths. In fact, I'm sure with my own children it'll be "Now, we're done with our study on Greek myths. HERE'S PERCY JACKSON, GO READ IT. AND NO, WE ARE NOT WATCHING THE MOVIES." But is it truly okay? I don't know. Because I still don't like Greek myths, I'm still not okay with pretending they are real, and (though this is utterly impossible) I'd like it better if it didn't make Greek mythology "real." But I do like Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

 The Characters

The main reason I like these books is because of the characters. They're all very well developed and each one adds to the story.

Percy Jackson
Percy is the protagonist, son of Poseidon, and the narrator of the series. In a lot of ways he's a fairly normal preteen/teen, but in a lot of ways, he's so much better. He's ADHD and dyslexic, common signs of being a halfblood, a demigod, and he's got a crazy sense of humor. So often I laughed or just had to read something out loud because the wording or the metaphor used was just so unusual and funny. And he's very loyal to his friends. He'd do anything to save them. He really would. He'll even fall into Tartarus with Annabeth, though that doesn't happen until the second series. Percy isn't perfect. He makes lots of mistakes, and his fatal flaw is that he's willing to go too far in protecting his friends, or at least so he's told by Athena. But Percy is strong and a great fighter, and he doesn't know it. He doesn't realize how awesome he is, and that just makes it better.

Annabeth Chase
Annabeth is the daughter of Athena. She's smart, she loves architecture, she has a deathly fear of spiders, and she wants so badly to build something permanent. She's had a rough life, but Camp Half-Blood is her home, and Percy becomes her best friend. Eventually. I love watching their relationship grow throughout the series. She always calls Percy Seaweed Brain, but when she uses it, it's more of a term of endearment than an insult. He's Seaweed Brain, and it's sweet. Just believe me.

Grover is a satyr, Percy's best friend at the beginning of The Lightning Thief. He's funny too. But he's also devoted to his cause. He's pretty great.

Tyson's such a sweetie. He's a cyclops, he loves peanut butter, and he looks up to his "big" brother Percy so much. (All cyclopes are apparently children of Poseidon.) He's willing to fight for what's right, he loves "ponies" (centaurs), and did I mention he's sweet? "Though 'peanut butter' is a strange battle cry."

Thalia Grace
Daughter of Zeus, reminds Annabeth a lot of Percy. They are similar, though I don't think Thalia quite shares Percy's sense of humor. She's had a rough life. I like her.

Chiron, Mr. D (Dionysus), Charles Beckendorf, Silena Beauregard, Nico di Angelo, Rachel Elizabeth Dare, Luke Castellan, Sally Jackson, Mrs. O'Leary (the hellhound), Apollo...they all spring off the page, they all add something to the book, they (the heroes) all will fight to the death to defend their friends and family, to defend their home, to defend the earth. That's why I like them.

My friend tells me that's the fan term for Percy's character voice. It's very unique, and a good reason to like these books. 

     Ever had a flying burrito hit you? Well, it's a deadly projectile, right up there with cannonballs and grenades.
     At the Hoover Dam--“Let us find the dam snack bar," Zoe said. "We should eat while we can."
     Grover cracked a smile. "The dam snack bar?"
     Zoe blinked. "Yes. What is funny?"
     "Nothing," Grover said, trying to keep a straight face. "I could use some dam french fries."
     Even Thalia smiled at that. "And I need to use the dam restroom."
    ...I started cracking up, and Thalia and Grover joined in, while Zoe just looked at us. "I do not understand."
    "I want to use the dam water fountain," Grover said.
    "And..." Thalia tried to catch her breath. "I want to buy a dam t-shirt.”
    She'd also called me brave...unless she was talking to the catfish.
    We only came close to dying six or seven times, which I thought was pretty good. Once, I lost my grip and found myself dangling by one hand from a ledge fifty feet above the rocky surf. But I found another handhold and kept climbing. A minute later Annabeth hit a slippery patch of moss and her foot slipped. Fortunately, she found something else to put it against. Unfortunately, that something was my face.
    "Sorry," she murmured.
    "S'okay," I grunted, though I'd never really wanted to know what Annabeth's sneaker tasted like.
     I don't recommend shadow travel if you're scared of:
a) The dark
b) Cold shivers up your spine
c) Strange noises
d) Going so fast you feel like your face is peeling off
    In other words, I thought it was awesome.
You probably get the point. Persassy alone was enough to keep me reading.

Despite the fact that the Greek gods are supposedly real, right is right and wrong is wrong, and there's no confusion between the two. The one time Percy sneaks away from camp, they're under a really horrible camp director who shouldn't be in charge, gets replaced at the end, and wasn't following procedures correctly. And they were helped by Hermes.

It does get a little violent. They do end up at war with the Titans. Percy gets put into a gladiator arena in the Labyrinth. I didn't find it too gruesome, though. As far as romantic content goes, it's really clean. Sure, there is some romance, but it's pretty slow. There are a couple kisses, but it doesn't go any further in the description than to say that they kissed. I found it extremely refreshing. Spiritual content is the trouble, but there's not really anything you wouldn't expect from Greek myths. So if you're okay with reading Greek myths, you should be okay with Percy Jackson. And there was one bit of conversation. I hate that it was applied to a Greek god, but I still think it made a powerful point.
     "Dad," I said, "when I was in the maze, I met Antaeus. He said...well, he said he was your favorite son. He decorated his arena with skulls and--"
     "He dedicated them to me," Poseidon supplied. "And you are wondering how someone could do something so horrible in my name."
    I nodded uncomfortably.
    “Percy, lesser beings do many horrible things in the name of the gods. That does not mean we gods approve. The way our sons and daughters act in our names... well, it usually says more about them than it does about us."
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a difficult topic. There are many pros, but there are also serious cons. I personally like the series a lot, but I'm glad I waited to read it until I was a more mature reader. For younger kids, since they are clean and well written, I would recommend them as a follow up to a school study on Greek mythology. As such a supplement, they are fantastic. Be careful to treat it wholly as fiction, and enjoy!


  1. Love the post, Morgan! Awesome points. Now do a post on the 2nd series. Please!

    1. Glad you liked it! I have more problems with the second series...


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