Percy Jackson

Dear J-

We are reading the Percy Jackson series (and by we, I mean that theVet is impatiently waiting for me to catch up so that she doesn’t blurt out important plot spoiler points in normal conversation), which is going mostly well; the pacing is exciting, and the books experiencing the same sort of bloat that Harry Potter did (each book getting successively longer and fatter, filled with fun story nonetheless, but at the expense of page count). In fact, the clearest analog or inspiration could be said to be Harry and his success; you have the same elements of the fantastical mixed in with the mundane modern world. As we so often dream, these books offer an escape from the ordinary and hope that we can all be special regardless of how little the outside world may think of us.

There’s two issues with Percy’s story (in the scant two out of five books that I’ve read, so far). First, there’s no sense of world-building; second, the dialogue keeps grating on my ear. Sure, the fantastical is pretty amazing here, but it’s all grounded in Greek mythology; the point may be to get kids interested in those ancient tales and seek out the source information, but I can see them being happy with the peeks under the tablecloth that they’re given here — the endless torment of Tartarus, the voyage of Odysseus. Unlike Harry, which featured a unique and accessible universe, the enjoyment of Percy is directly tempered by how big of a Greek geek you were/are. There are multiple instances where I find myself wishing I had some reference (Edith Hamilton, where are you?) available that I could bounce back and forth to check story details.

The pacing is good but every so often a character’s line from the book falls flat in a way that tells me it’s a middle-aged guy who wrote it, not a line some adolescent might blurt out. It wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t yank me out of the story abruptly; dialogue is a tricky thing, and adolescent dialogue is doubly difficult. I find myself reading the words aloud to see if it resembles the spoken vernacular (often it does not, so I tweak them to fit). It’s easy to be a critic, though, instead of reading for enjoyment and this is an easy, fun read. Recommended, with the caveat that you’ll want to bone up on your Greek myths between books.

Mike

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