Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series review)

The more serious I get about my dreams of being a full time author, the more time I spend reading children’s novels. Doesn’t seem to make any sense?

But wait. It does.

You see, I write urban fantasy and dystopian sci-fi for ages 10 – 25. While this is intentional, I should also mention that my mother who is nearly 60 has no problem reading anything I’m working on and often passes it off to her friends too. That being said, my focus is on influencing children.

So much of who I am and how I deal with the world was impressed upon me between the ages of 10-18 and from YA fiction. Of course that doesn’t stop the looks I get at the library when I walk away with Percy Jackson or Midnight for Charlie Bone. Looks don’t stop me from doing whatever I intend to do though, so I’m happy to report that this morning I finished the fifth and final book of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

Despite what you may think of reading books whose main character is about twelve, this series rocked! Still that’s not much of a recommendation, so I’m going to give you my (NUMBER REPLACE) list of reasons why you should give this series a try.

1. Mythological Madness! – I don’t about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by mythology of any kind, and so, naturally I’ve spent a lot of time reading about Greek gods and heros. I even studied Latin for three years, which was basically a lot of translating those same stories. But I know what you’re thinking. So, if I’ve read all about this stuff than why did I care about reading it all over again? Well because the author Rick Riordan knows a hell of a lot more about Greek myths than I do. For as many stories or monsters or gods, as I knew, there were that many that I didn’t. And now I have a huge list of these very things to look up and read the original tales.

2. Masterful use of subplots – This is a particular favorite of mine, in books like the Harry Potter series or in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind and The Wise man’s Fear. When an author introduces something or someone seemingly meaningless, books ahead of when it will come into use. It shows a great ability to plan and the forethought to create magnificently complicated things. There are a number of times when this genius (or at the very least, incredibly organized sense of planning,) comes into play in this series and I found myself in total shock and joy or anger as these things were resolved in the final book.

3. Delightful characters – This is not to say that all of the characters are good. No. That would make for a terribly boring story. In fact, most of the characters are very bad at following the rules and screw up marvelously. Even the villains surprise and taunt in new and creative ways which never seemed outlandish or unbelievable. Even the most minor characters had distinct personalities, but more importantly, their dialogue styles were dissimilar from other characters.

4. Prophecies – Yet another thing which, when done well, is spectacular in my book. Since we are dealing with the modern day interpretation of Greek myths, it isn’t surprising that there are prophecies in this series. However, these ones are so beautifully crafted that their lines have stayed with me days and days after I finished the books. Of course when prophecies are issued in novels, it is often too easy to discern what will happen in very little time. I’m happy to report that one of the joyful things about reading this series, is that for every prophecy made, there are a dozen possibilities in which it can be applied and every new scrap of information which you receive, along with the heros, leads you to believe that you know exactly what is going to happen. I certainly did. And you know what? Every single time I was wrong. I’ve never been so thoroughly duped in all my reading days. Which leads me to number 5.

5. Seriously unpredictable – More often than I’d like, in both adult and children’s literature, I find my ability to predict what’s going to happen, along with the how and why, far to accurately. I’m rarely confused, or surprised and while I still enjoy what I’m reading, I haven’t felt so completely unsure in a long time.

6. Life or Death – Tying in with the last, it is generally safe to assume that in most cases, no matter how likely, the main character of a novel won’t die. It’s hard to pull off and it generally pisses off your reader so it’s not a good thing to do. That is even more predictable in children’s work, because far too often, children’s books shy away from death. Not the case in this series, not at all. A great many characters die, some of which I cried for, but more importantly. After about midway through the second book, I was almost positive that the narrative would have to be switched midway through the series to a separate character or the main character would have been narrating from a totally different physical perspective, like as a ghost. Now I won’t confirm one way or another how this series ends, since I was surprised, but with the conclusion of each of the four other books I continued to be baffled that the main character was still alive. I never experienced the feeling of certainty which I felt while reading Harry Potter, that Harry would win and make it to then end. Nope, I didn’t believe in you Percy.

Well I had another couple of things on my list that make this series awesome but I think if I haven’t convinced you to read it yet, well, it may not be your cup of tea. At any rate I loved it. If you’ve read it and have any thoughts positive or negative I’d love to hear them. If you haven’t read it. Go. Read.

Reading Children’s lit as an adult, Yay or Nay?

My mantra is beginning to be, “I didn’t plan to write this but here we are…” I apologize. I’ll be back later today with some flash fiction but for the moment I’d like to briefly comment on this gem, why do grown ups read ‘childrens lit’?. Please follow the link to this lovely individuals blog   for some of their thoughts on the subject.

 

I for one love this question, because it is one that I find myself answering all the time.

While I won’t say that I only read children’s lit, I will say that I head right to it’s section in every library or bookstore I visit. Though I do pick up other books in other genres with more adult themes and topics, I personally am more often than not let down by books made for adults. Part of this is because I prefer fantasy and sci-fi genres and not the realistic non fiction my parent’s and their friends go to, but that isn’t all of it.

Often times, the books made for children or teens have more life in them, at least I cry and laugh and shout when reading those books because of the quirkiness of the characters or their outrageous actions or circumstances, and yet I rarely find myself so moved by adult lit.

I firmly believe that any book which can, even for a moment, distract us from the real horrors of the world and our lives is a good thing. More than that though, I love that more often than not children’s lit expresses those same horrors in disguise. It’s Voldemort, not Hitler after all.

The ability of children’s lit authors to take the horrors of the world and make them understandable and real to children, introducing kids to topics and ideas that they won’t see for years in school, is a wonderful thing. No parent is going to give their 10 year old a documentary of how dictators can ruin countries or oppress and torture their people, yet you can hand your child the Hunger Games and do the same thing.

Yes these worlds are fantasy and yes there are things within that cannot mesh with reality, but the fact that children’s stories are able to focus on the worst and best things about human life and add life lessons and morals too, is something you won’t get from a history book. It’s easy to point fingers and say that one side of any argument is right or wrong, but in fiction we find that often the bad guy had good intentions, or a bad childhood, or was simply misguided, but at least we get the opportunity to decide for ourselves.

Too often the news and textbooks paint the facts in one light or another and it takes time to decipher the truth. But in a children’s book, we are given the opportunity to see the whole story and are shown that even the worst people can do good, and even the hero has his faults.

Maybe it isn’t a grown up decision to pick up Percy Jackson and the Olympians instead of the Iliad, but guess what? I’m an adult and I don’t have to act like one. Thanks for teaching me that one Peter… Pan.

 

As written from behind my desk while sipping cream soda and wearing dinosaur footy pajamas… Adult size!

 

Are you an adult who likes to read children’s lit? What are your favorites? Has anyone ever given you hell for it? Let me know in the comments.