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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Series Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Publisher: Disney
Published: 2005-2009
Pages: 1,741
Source: Bought
Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis for Book 1, The Lightning Thief:
Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

In short: Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a totally fun and easy to read series, but it felt a bit too young for me personally.
Well, it ain't no Harry Potter. But Percy Jackson and the Olympians was pretty cute anyways. Rick Riordan hit the jackpot when he came up with a series that features young demi-gods who get to train at summer camp and fight all manner of mythological monsters in a creatively engaging plot. The pacing is break-neck - too fast for my taste, personally - but great for readers who become impatient with steady-going plots. Rick Riordan also has a knack for writing humorous scenes and clever dialogue - the humour was probably my favourite part of the series.

My main complaint with Percy Jackson and the Olympians is that it felt really young. That may seem like an unfair criticism as the series is intended for middle grade readers, but to me, the best Middle Grade reads are the ones that transcend all age groups and provide enjoyment and richness to all ages of readers. I would argue that this isn't the case with Percy Jackson and the Olympians - the language is simplistic, the characters lack dimension, and the plot lacks complexity and nuance. These are books I would have loved if I had read them as a ten-year-old; as a twenty-something, I can only say that I liked them.

I'm very glad that I have finally read this series that people have been recommending to me for ages! I did enjoy it, truly, and I recognize its popularity and I do feel it is deserving of it. I just wish this series would have been around when I was much younger, when I would have loved the heck out of it and appreciated it a whole lot more. As it is, I would definitely recommend Percy Jackson and the Olympians to reluctant young readers - it is incredibly fast paced and easy to read and they are sure to have a fun time reading it!

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  1. I definitely know what you mean. I've only read the first one and it made me slightly uncomfortable at just how old it made me feel. I read a lot of YA and Middle Grade but this one - it was a little young. Maybe I should wait till my niece is old enough and then read them to her and that will not make it seem quite as young.

    Kate @ Fictional Thoughts

  2. I agree with your review. My kids wanted to do Percy Jackson for book club, and I has never read it before. It does read as very young. Maybe they get better as Percy gets older and the other 2 series progress. Like HP got more mature as Harry got older.

    The main part I liked was delving into Greek mythology and talking about who the characters really were. I'm a mythology nut, so that was fun for me. But the rest was eh.

  3. I agree about your statement for MG. I think a true good MG is one that can be read by adults as well :) I've always been hesitant about this series after seeing the first movie.. But lately, I've seen this series cycling in the blogosphere and I'm starting to get curious about the concept :) So thanks for review, I might give it a shot after all, although I'll keep in mind it's no HP ;)

    1. (Pssst, heh, I kind of felt like these books were much better than Harry Potter. But that might just be my opinion (A) <3)

  4. Hmmm. I'd been debating this series for a while Aylee but I was nervous that it would read too young for me, and clearly that's the case. Yes, it's targeted toward MG readers, but like you said, a great story is a great story and can draw in readers of all ages. Glad you at least enjoyed the series overall even if it wasn't everything you hoped it might be!

  5. Aw. I'm so so sorry that you weren't able to fully love these books. Sniffs. (Hih, you see, I just read them all as well and I really, really loved them.) But I do understand how you feel. Thank you for sharing and being honest. <3

  6. You said it perfectly: the best MG fiction transcends all ages and are enjoyable regardless. Unfortunately, the Percy Jackson series didn't quite accomplish this for me either. Like you, I definitely didn't see it comparing to HP in any way. I did enjoy the wit, humour and mythology quite a bit though. My main concerns were the same as yours: the entire series felt too young for my liking AND the pacing was too charged for me as well; especially in the final installment - man, I almost got whiplash in that one o_O The simple language annoyed me too...it really would have been a series for us to read in our youth, rather than adulthood. It was still a fun read though and I don't regret reading them so I'm glad you seem to have had a similar experience with them :) Awesome review for the series ^^

  7. I feel like I would react the same way you did! I read The Lightening Thief years ago and while I liked it, I wasn't blown away enough to read the sequels. Lately, I've been wanting to give them a go but was unsure about the writing level. Might still give them a chance someday! They do sound fun and so many people like them! Great review, you hit the nail on the head.

  8. I want to read more MG, but I'm with you, the ones that stick out to me the most are the stories that transcend age a bit more. I haven't read any of these; just saw the movies, which I think are fun.

  9. "The best Middle Grade reads are the ones that transcend all age groups and provide enjoyment." Totally agree with this statement, Aylee! It's why I don't read as much MG ... because a lot of MG reads that I would have loved had I been younger don't resonate as much with me now.

  10. Your "in short" section sums up my main reasoning for *not* wanting to read this series. It just sounds a bit too juvenile for me, which is unfortunate because I freaking love Greek mythology. Maybe if I can convince my little sister to read them, I can read and then have someone to discuss with? (And maybe not feel too awkward for reading a mg book lol...my main reason for not reading much mg, to be honest.) Sorry these didn't work out quite as you planned, but I'm glad you found some good within them anyway!

  11. I'm with you - definitely a little young for me. I made it through first and second books, not sure if I have the gumption to read the rest.

  12. I think this series was more for middle-grade readers, and not necessarily for EVERY age, unlike the HP series. I still enjoyed it very much though, and made me want to venture into more mature greek mythology based stories.

  13. I think you make a great point about this feeling young! I really love how you put that. I always feel bad for reading a middle grade read and then criticizing it for feeling young, but it's true that there are middle grade reads that have enough complexity to appeal to adult readers. This certainly isn't my least favorite middle grade series in that regard, but it did feel pretty young to me too.

  14. I loved these ones! :D I definitely agree that they're more for a younger middle grade audience though...but I have to admit, when I read the series, I totally just let myself embrace that! haha

    I think you'd enjoy his followup series to PJ & the Olympians! The one that has Percy in it, too, it's his Heroes of Olympus series, which starts with The Lost Hero! It's still in the same world and everything, but it's definitely more mature because the characters are older...plus, he brings in the Roman versions of the gods along with the Greek ones, and things get CRAZY! haha :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Eilidh! :D