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the bookshelf:
ods among us
by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3
continued from page 2

Yes, the ancient Greek gods, it seems, are alive and well; Olympus is now situated high, high above the current center of western civilization (that being New York City, naturally). Meanwhile, with the Greek pantheon's most terrifying gods and monsters suddenly in his pursuit, Percy discovers his good buddy Grover is actually a satyr charged with his protection, and that his mother has been hiding the secret of his paternity. His mom and Grover now guide him to the one place in the world that's supposed to be safe for his kind: Camp Half-Blood, a school and training ground for the illegitimate progeny of those rather promiscuous Olympians. For the first time, Percy kinda sorta fits in: it turns out the ADHD is actually a byproduct of the keen reflexes heroes require, that the dyslexia is a consequence of the fact that their brains are hardwired for ancient Greek, not English. But as Percy begins to build hero skills, make friends, and get a little closer to discovering who his father actually is, tensions in the outside world slowly push their way towards camp. Someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt; convinced that his brother Poseidon is at the root of the transgression, the mighty Zeus is on the verge of declaring war with his equally powerful sib. With the help of Grover the satyr and Annabel, daughter of Athena, Percy sets out on a quest to hunt down the lightning bolt, return it to its rightful owner, and stop the impending war.

Kids' books have long been a semi-guilty pleasure of mine, so when Harry Potter made it officially okay for grown-ups to scour the children's section of the bookstore for their fun literary fixes, I certainly didn't need convincing. This being an off-summer in that series following everyone's favorite wizard, we're even more starved than usual for something to feed our kiddie lit voids. Enter Rick Riordan's Percy and the Olympians series, which introduces unlikely hero Percy Jackson, along with a magical, mystery-filled world that looks just enough like our boring real one to make you succumb to the fantasy. The kids are funny, and smart, and flawed, and immensely believable; the gods and demi-gods just as much so. Indeed a great part of the fun is how Riordan imagines what the Greek gods might be like if they were actually running amok in present-day America -- we get Poseidon as an aging surfer dude, Ares as a leather-clad biker badass, and Hades as the poor guy struggling to deal with bad land development (the underworld's getting mighty crowded) and management issues (they don't make minions like they used to). It's witty and often hilarious, and the writing immediately lures you into this fictional world. In its clever balancing of epic fantasy with pop-culture, it actually reminds me a bit of my beloved Buffy, even.

A great kids' book hooks you with fabulous characters embarking on amazing adventures; it reminds you of what it was like to be ten years old and with a whole summer in front of you, three months of freedom all to yourself, where anything seemed possible. As adults, summers sadly aren't so free anymore which makes an addictive, adventure-filled series like Percy and the Olympians all the more delectable a find. Get hooked with this first book, The Lightning Thief, and I guarantee you'll be running to the stores to snatch up the recently-released book two.


check out these related articles:
thriller me this |persepolis | summer reading 2004 | summer reading 2003 | travelogues

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