The Lightening Thief
This book showed up on my radar this past spring when one of my students asked for permission to alter a project assignment to allow him to read books by Rick Riordan. Since I teach middle school and Riordan is an adult author (or rather was) I was hesitant and told him I’d allow it as long as he brought me a note from home. When he showed me The Lightening Thief I was intrigued. Soon the book was passing around among my seventh grade boys like trading cards. I’d not seen this level of interest since I’d shelved a bunch of Deltora Quest books and the conversations in the hall came down to “Hey do you have #3? I have #4, I’ll trade you.”
So this summer I picked up the tale of Perseus (Percy) Jackson. Percy is a troubled kid attending a school for troubled kids. His ADHD, dyslexia and moodiness don’t make him the ideal student or prospective hero. After being attacked by a Fury disguised as his algebra teacher, he finds out that his best friend Grover is actually a satyr sent to protect him, his cool wheelchair-bound Latin teacher is actually Chiron the centaur and he’s the son of Poseidon.
Sorta cool until he realizes the Zeus’ thunderbolt has been stolen and guess who everyone thinks did it? Him. So with Grover and another half-blood he faces a quest complete with the Oracle’s warning that one who calls him friend will betray him.
The story has action and adventure so it’s easy to see the draw for my middle school boys. It was fun read if predictable from an adult standpoint. One thing that did strike me was how well Riordan integrated the Olympians and their lore into the contemporary world. The book is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to introduce young people to Greek mythology. The mentions of heroes and gods will have the kids asking for more.
Percy is likable and sympathetic. The very predictability of the plot is one of the things that made this popular among my reluctant readers, but it might be a turn-off for adult readers.