Percy Jackson rant: kids aren’t the only ones into PJ and the Olympians!

by Jasper on August 29, 2009

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The Empire State Building in the gateway to Olympus and to great views

The Empire State Building is the gateway to Olympus and to great views

I’m in the middle of The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5) and I’m having a problem: I’m completely addicted to this series!

I came across the books after seeing the amazing movie trailer for The Lightening Thief, which I understand is being released sometime in 2010. I was really struck by the part of the preview where the kid leaves the taxicab in front of the Empire State Building, enters one of the elevators and presses the very unusual “Omega” button at the top of the elevator control panel. The camera then pans up the side of the building, showing lights all the way into the more decorative art deco tip of the structure. Suddenly the elevator doors open and the audience is thrown into a state of awe, wonderingly gazing at Olympus. Wow! This movie looks so cool!!!

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to 2010 so I started reading the series last week. Yeah, that’s right; I started with book one seven days ago and today I’m in the middle of book five. Like I said, I’m addicted. It’s almost as bad as my Twilight obsession, though thankfully, that’s settling down a little.

It’s thrilling the way the series takes all of the old Greek stories and mixes them up in the modern United States. How awesome that the main entrance to the Underworld is in West Hollywood, for instance. That seems completely plausible to me. I used to live about six blocks from the Empire State Building. Who knew that I was so close to the throne room of the gods? And I totally get it that a cruise ship can be a force of evil!

I loved Greek mythology when I was in elementary school. I read Bullfinch’s and Edith Hamilton’s mythology compendiums in the sixth grade. I also played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons at that time of my life, so this Greek stuff came in handy. One Christmas, or maybe on my birthday, my folks bought me this drawing set. It was a bunch of magic markers and these large paper drawings of mythological scenes. The idea was to color them in yourself. I still vividly recall the picture with a huge glaring Medusa head right in the middle. Just like Percy, that freaked me out.

I’m an adult now though I won’t tell any of you my age. But I don’t think that that’s made me less interested in mythology adventure stories. That’s why it came as a shock to read on the Rick Riordan web site that the PJ series is listed under his writings for “children.”

Am I being insulted because I love this series?

I kind of get it in that the heroes are all kids: mostly pre-teens really, with Luke, the troubled bad guy, described as a teen-aged college model type. All of us “adults” were once pre-teens and teenagers so I don’t really see how the characters’ ages could be an issue per se. The series is written in a very accessible style, hence my ability to breeze through the whole thing in about a week. Perhaps that makes it a “children’s series?” Though, newspapers and magazines, which are clearly written for adults, have a similar kind of easy reading style, so I’m not convinced. Maybe because the books are co-published by Hyperion and the Disney Corporation they’re “supposed” to be for kids? That just seems silly to me.

And really, what’s so kid-style about a series of books that prominently features violence and death; sadistic, irresponsible adults; war; sexual infidelity; politics; the destruction of the environment and metaphysical speculations? If these aren’t “adult themes,” then what is?

There’s not much sex, if that’s what you’re thinking: so maybe the series is o.k. for little Bobby and Julie. It’s obvious that we Americans believe that a steady diet of violence is perfectly fine for our juvenile citizens. I’ll have a super-sized order of French fries to go with the killing and mayhem, please.

Snap out of it people! If Percy Jackson and the Olympians is for anyone, then it’s for everyone!

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