Kristin's Reviews > The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
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Aug 12, 2011

bookshelves: young-adult
Read from July 30 to August 12, 2011

I had very high expectations for this book as a lover of YA fantasy and sci fi--and I read a good chunk of it, but put it down for good. I wanted to stop early on, but kept reading, propelled to keep going by the fact that, while it was formulaic and I didn't like that about it, the formula was doing its best to suck me in. Finally, though, it didn't work for me. But I'm not the target audience, and I do recognize that the target audience would probably like it. That audience, I thought, was boys in 6th grade or so. Being female and an early reader, this is something I might have read and enjoyed in 3rd or 4th grade.
These are my beefs: it was incredibly cinematic, but not really in a good way. It was like a mindless special-effects-and-unrealistic-action-peppered-with-school-drama movie. You could practically hear the alt-pop soundtrack playing in the background. But not such a movie from today--rather, one from the late 80s/early 90s. The way the characters talked was not the way 12 year old boys have talked for several decades now. A 12 year old boy (or "guy," as we called them already when I was 12 in 1998), does not start sentences with "Boy," as in "Boy, was I wrong." A 12 year old boy, shockingly enough to old people, is more likely to start an exclamatory sentence with an expletive, and then rearrange the words a little. Any author wanting to know how teenage boys actually talk to each other should take a gander at Sherman Alexie's "Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian."
Next, the females in the story were hollow, two-dimensional comic book characters, also from the 80s. They don't have thoughts, real feelings, or motivations, and they call people "honey" every five seconds, apparently because they're robots. Maybe it's explained later in the story, but Percy's mom is, according to him, the nicest and best person in the world, and she doesn't seem to be a trashy, ugly idiot or anything, so why IS she with the old, bald, fat, dirty, disgusting guy that is Percy's step dad? It's because that character is just a symbol in a formula. Good for nothing guy who super hero's mom is with for some unknown reason. I would like it if the author could have thought about this symbol from the actual woman's perspective. Why would a nice, pretty woman from a good background be with a fat, disgusting, ugly, disgusting, bald, disgusting, farting guy? The correct answer is: she wouldn't! (Unless she exhibited several other key characteristics indicative of deep, long-running psychological issues).
And then she died, right at the beginning. Descriptions of Percy's grief at this were very brief and hollow. And now he's an orphan, so he can be like Harry Potter, only not richly developed, brilliantly fleshed out, or compelling as a character.
In short, it all struck me as hollow, two-dimensional, and so formulaic as to be little more than a marketing scheme.


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