By Jennifer Dyer
The other day I picked up Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan. In half a page I was hooked. Percy starts his epic journey as an awkward, dyslexic, troublemaking student. He lives with his dreaming mother and horrible-excuse-for-human-being stepfather. His future looks pretty bleak until he discovers he is a demigod (son of a Greek god and a human).
As a mom, a small part of me admired Percy’s mother for staying with that wretched human Gabe to protect Percy, but the rest of me didn’t like it at all. But that’s all right because the reader is not supposed to identify with her. Percy is the important one, and he is magnificent. A true hero. He puts other’s needs before himself, and as the series goes on, Percy proves he is more than willing to sacrifice even his own life to do what is right and to save his friends. Percy is faced with tough choices, and although a bit impulsive, he is the best Greek hero I have ever read about.
Another mom thought: I do have few issues with this series, and they have nothing to do with Riodan.
The first is those Olympian gods… Riordan holds nothing back. He writes the gods as they were in Greek literature. They are reprehensible, irresponsible, self-absorbed, miserable, backstabbing, vengeful, devoid of morals, and completely corrupted beings. They give deeper meaning to the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Rats have higher standards, and alley cats are more selective about their mating habits.
Furthermore, the idea that these gods might possibly reflect on the character of the one and true all-powerful God is insulting. (I refer to the Triune Judeo-Christian Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) I hate that some might confuse the traits of the Greek Olympians with the actual one and only God. It is the highest insult to Him. That being said, I do not think Riordan confuses them, nor do most people, but that is something I plan to discuss with my daughter when she reads these books someday.
As far as age level goes, just be prepared for some questions, such as how come those Greek gods have children with all those different people? The pantheon is one big dysfunctional family, and I’m sure my daughter will have plenty of questions as she tries to wrap her mind around that. I hope the questions include: if the Olympians are gods and they are supposed to know almost everything, why are they such jerks? And why do they spend all their time making others miserable instead of helping them?
There are also some battle scenes and monsters that could be scary to younger readers. I’d probably say the Olympians series is for 5th grade and above, but then again, I was reading Star Wars and Sherlock Holmes in elementary school, so it’s hard to put an exact age on it.