Title: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Publication Date: March 2006
Number of Pages: 400
What if the gods of Olympuswere alive in the 21st Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes — like Theseus, Jason and Hercules?
What if you were one of those children?
Such is the discovery that launches twelve-year-old Percy Jackson on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.
Source: Rick Riordan’s Web Site
I admit I’ve been putting off writing this review because I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about this book. On a purely entertainment level the book is a fun adventure with friendship and all the other important things in a book like this should have. However I’m bothered by some of the implications in the book. I realize the author wrote the series for his son who has dyslexia and ADHD like the main character Percy. And I have to figure he meant for it to be an inspiring book about a boy with disabilities who finds out he’s a half-God and learns that his disabilities are gifts (which is a trope as well, but more on that in a minute).
Even when I was first reading it I spent the first few pages wondering why Percy wasn’t getting any support or accommodations in the schools he was in. He talks about how he’s been kicked out of school after school because things keep happening and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had gotten more support from the system he wouldn’t have been kicked out. To be fair I think we were supposed to realize that most of the time he was getting kicked out not because of his disabilities but because various demons and other evils were causing problems and Percy was getting blamed for it. But even that bothers me – that he was getting blamed for things that weren’t his fault.
When we learn he’s really a half god and that his dyslexia is due to his brain being hardwired to read Greek and the ADHD is heightened battle reflexes we’re supposed to think that’s awesome that the disabilities are really gifts, right? Unfortunately, it’s a trope that’s been done to death. Have a look at the Disability Superpower page on TVTropes.com. Basically – it’s okay to be disabled because you have this other super power that makes up for it. And it’s not just Percy or the other half-Gods – there are other characters with disabilities that turn out to be hiding something else.
There’s also the problem of Camp Half-Blood – where all the half-Gods go because they can’t live in the real world. Granted it’s mainly because the bad guys would keep coming after them but still… being forced to stay at this one location for the rest of your life just because you’re a half-God? Oh but maybe you’ll get sent on a few missions because you’re hero after all, but after you’ll have to come back and stay at the camp because there’s nothing else for you.
Granted at the end of the book Percy decides to go live in the real world for a while – to try again with school. But again I wonder if he’ll be given accommodations and support at all? Because without those he isn’t going to be able to do much. Being told to “try harder” doesn’t help when you can’t read the words on a page or sit still long enough to take in the information being given.
Here’s the thing – disabilities are real, dyslexia and ADHD and physical disabilities are real. They’re something that needs to be lived with, not pretending they are really gifts. That it’s okay that we’re disabled because we have this super power that makes up for it. No, it’s okay to be disabled because we’re still people just like everyone else. We don’t need pity or uplifting stories to deal with our disablites. What we need is to be accepted for who we are.