Twelve year-old Percy Jackson discovers that the world of Greek mythology continues to exist in the modern world. As if that were not enough, Percy also learns that he is the son of Poseidon. The series follows the next four years of Percy’s life as he battles mythical monsters, embarks on dangerous quests, fulfils prophecies and grows up.
Humorous, unpredictable and fast paced, the series provides young readers with the opportunity to gain a basic understanding of mythology. It is an easy read for preteens and is one of those best-sellers that can get a child hooked on reading. The story is told in the main character’s own words, sacrificing richness for relevance in style and language. The fact that themes of heroism, friendship and sacrifice are well explored somewhat makes up for this. As is typical of Greek mythology, the books seek to define what heroes are and the qualities that heroes possess. Percy himself is an admirable character who over the course of the series proves himself a true hero by continually overcoming his defects, rising from his mistakes and showing himself able to make sacrifices in the interest of what is right. His friends are comparable to the characters of Ron and Hermione. Annabeth displays wisdom in her emphasis on the importance on self-knowledge. Grover is more sensitive to the needs of others, serves as comic relief and advocates awareness of our responsibility for the environment. Forgiveness and redemption, more specifically the idea that everyone is capable of good, feature heavily in the last book.
Unfortunately, the books of the Percy Jackson series do contain more dubious family dynamics. It may be the intention of the author to present the gods not as ideals but as examples of what not to do, however this is not made perfectly clear. Proper to the myths to which the stories refer, infidelity is common among the gods of Olympus, and the issue of adultery is dealt with lightly, sometimes becoming the source of a joke. The Olympians can be likened to one large, dysfunctional family whose parenting skills leave much to be desired. Unlike the film, in many of the books it is unclear whether or not the gods love their children. Unsurprisingly, many of the demi-god characters suffer from issues of abandonment as a result of this, and resentment towards their godly parents serves as a catalyst in the development of the plot. That said, it is recognised, mainly from Percy’s point of view, that the way in which the gods treat their children is wrong. Percy himself forgives his father and tries to rectify the situation to the benefit of all. His efforts result in a satisfying end to the series for both readers and characters alike.
Though the target audience for the series is 9 to 12 year-olds, I would recommend it for mature preteens to younger teenagers. It would be a good idea to watch the film adaptation of Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief as a point for comparison.
Maryana Garcia is the eldest of four sisters. A student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, she plans to major in History and is currently an employee at the Mount Albert Community Library.