Re-Reading Childhood Favorites #2

Picking up from last week’s first re-reading post, I am re-reading another series that helped to form my childhood. This week we will be discussing all things Percy Jackson with a brief review of the separate book series, the original Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus, the film adaptations, and the graphic novel adaptations. While I’d love to get more in-depth with the review concerning the books, there are too many for me to go as deep as I’d like. Today is more of a comparison between the different forms the story has taken rather than a critique of the novels themselves.

With all that out of the way, on to the review:

1. Percy Jackson – Percy Jackson is a pretty average kid. Well, average if you count the fact that he’s dyslexic and has ADHD. Otherwise, he’s your typical trouble child, always struggling with school. His family life’s not much better, given the kind of jerk his stepfather is. It’s not until one particularly strange day at school that things change. Suddenly Percy Jackson is thrust into a strange new world with a threat old as history – ancient history. With his new friends Annabeth and friend-turned-guardian Grover, Percy must face a future overshadowed by a prophecy, a monstrous new threat, and a future choice that may define the fate of the world.

Whether or not you’re a particularly large fan of the original series, there’s no denying that these are the books that started it all. Rick Riordan certainly breathed new life into old myths and characters with the first book, which kicked off to a really great start and made the majority of us fall in love with the flawed world of demigod heroes. I genuinely enjoyed how the themes of redemption and good vs evil are discussed in this series. Luke Castellan’s arc is one that is to be admired for how it was thought out, written, and explored. Some of the books are weaker links in the chain to me than others, but as a whole series it is a pretty good experience.

2. Heroes of Olympus – Picking up from where the last series left off, the Heroes of Olympus series follows the two halves of the mythical world colliding. Percy Jackson and Jason Grace awake to find themselves in two separate places with absolutely no memory of who they are or where they are. All Jason Grace knows is he has the letters SPQR tattooed into his arm. All Percy Jackson knows is he has a necklace with painted beads around his neck. Both are dressed in the colors of a special camp, but each feels out of place. Their journey back to their true homes will bring about the collision of two very different worlds, two sides of one universe where the Roman and Greek gods must deal with their battling sides to unite against a much larger enemy: the mother of the universe itself.

This series is a hit or miss for me. While I actually enjoyed the newer characters of Jason Grace, Leo Valdez (aka the best new character of the series), Piper McLean, Frank Zhang, and Hazel Levesque, I could have done without this story. I understand that Rick Riordan left room at the end of the last series on purpose and that this is an interesting dilemma for the characters to face, but I disliked some of the character choices made (there is a larger amount of politically correct content than ever in this series), the action, and some of the books seemed unnecessary. Overall, an okay read that I could have done with or without.

#3. The Movie Adaptations – Following the same general plot as the books, the films make a grave error when it comes to the characters. Missing are the familiar traits that made the main trio so memorable, replaced instead by infallible Hollywood teen idols with hashed-up personalities. Relationships are cliched at best. The second film exceeds the first in quality, but is still a rather poor example of what one could do with the original material.

When it comes to the films, I think no fan will contest that they pale in comparison to the books. This is often true of book-to-movie adaptations, but Percy Jackson is especially guilty of botching a well-laid world. Not only are the characters poorly translated to screen, but the world, action, and pacing are completely different. The themes of redemption, family, and trust are completely tossed aside in the spirit of trying to create yet another popular YA flik. According to fellow fans, the films were discontinued after lead actor Logan Lerman refused to keep playing the role on the basis of doing the books a disservice. Is this true? The world will never know (or at least I won’t), but it’s definitely an interesting theory.

#4. The Graphic Novels – Of the two roads to adaptation, the graphic novel version of the books wins by far. Not only are the characters kept consistent with the books, but the friendship dynamic of the main trio – Percy, Annabeth, and Grover – is preserved with clarity and humor. While many scenes are slimmed down or even omitted, the graphic novels do their best to honor the series and do an excellent job of capturing the spirit that made them so good.

Percy Jackson, as a whole, is a diverse universe full of rich characters that is well thought out and plotted. My only complaint is that Rick Riordan is perhaps a little too politically swayed, something that is evident when watching the film. Also, a lot of story choices make little to no sense because they merely waste time or seem to serve no purpose. But, I guess that’s just a part of the adventure/fantasy genre as a whole.

All in all, a pretty good series. 3/5 stars, with some taken away for the PC content, mature implications in the Heroes of Olympus series and films, and some “mild” language.

Chime Time! Have you read the series? If so, what do you think?

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