After being forced by my coop last semester to make my students memorize a dreadfully long list of gods and goddesses and their corresponding domains and symbols, this book seemed to come in to my life a little too late. It would certainly have spiced up the conversation on how ancient Greek culture is still tightly woven into the fabric of modern-day America. There's always next time...
What I loved:
-Percy, the protagonist, has ADHD. Instead of dwelling on how the difference hinders his ability to navigate the world, a positive spin is put on the way in which the ADHD allows Percy to conquer challenges which require attention to various stimuli, all at once.
-While the book works as a major history lesson (or reinforcement of) for students immersed in the study of Greek mythology, Riordan works hard to ensure that he puts a modern, humorous and intelligent spin on some of the standard characters and situations. For example, instead of rendering an episode of the Lotus Eaters in the classic way, Riordan creates a fantasy gaming hotel--chock full of the newest and best virtual reality games and rooms stocked with all manner of candy, chips, and soda--into which Percy & co. are lured while traveling through Las Vegas. So the weakness changes, but the effect stays the same. No spoilers. You'll have to read it yourself.
-Unlike some Y.A. novels, the family dynamics of this story are believable. Percy's stepfather is painfully real to anyone who has had a stepfather they despised. The guilt and confusion Percy feels regarding his relationship with his mother seem developmentally and contextually appropriate. The family issues Percy copes with are pertinent to adolescents, and his emotions and reactions are very relatable. Bravo to Riordan for creating a complex home life for readers--one that cannot be resolved as easily as one might think.
What could have been improved:
-While Percy uses his intelligence to defeat challenges in some ways, the sword still plays a major role (hey, it's on the cover, so it's not too much of a spoiler). I would have liked to see a little more creativity here.
-Some sort of graphic organizer of the gods and goddesses at the beginning or as an appendix would be great for any reader--especially a middle schooler, and especially if Greek mythology is not being studied closely.
-The two major (non-god) bullies are girls. I understand that, in some ways, this does challenge a stereotype. But in another, very concerning way, it reinforces a binary of female as either savior or devil, especially in light of another girl character that does a whole lot of saving, and without whom Percy would be in pretty bad shape.
Have any of you read it? This is the first of a trilogy, if I'm not mistaken.