Insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. I believe in this idea, but as with all things, there are exceptions. The biggest exception to this rule is, in my eyes, books. Many people turn to old comforts in trying times, myself included. I’m known to reread books and re-watch shows regularly since I find comfort in already knowing the outcomes of things.
When the national lockdown began, I found myself reading much more than I usually would, getting in many books I put aside for later. But, as time went on, I retreated to old favorites, chief among them the Percy Jackson books.
If you haven’t read these, first of all, what were you obsessed with in middle school? Secondly, go read these as soon as you’re done here. And lastly, here’s a brief rundown before you go binge all these books.
In the simplest of terms, and keeping in mind that there will soon be fifteen full-length books in the Percy Jackson universe, the core idea is that all old mythology is real, and those gods are still hanging around, though this series focuses on Greek and Roman mythology. It is, in some ways, a classic children’s and Young Adult novel series in the vein of Harry Potter. The plot is that three friends, a girl and two boys, go on adventures and save the world from Kronos, the evil titan lord from Greek myths.
The titular and main character of the (first) series is Percy Jackson, Poseidon’s forbidden son, and Chosen One of the Great Prophecy. Not exactly a boy who lived, though he survived death a whopping 76 times throughout all the books.
At his side is his best friend Grover, the lovable goof of the group and a satyr. His whole job is to make sure Percy doesn’t die because he’s crucial to the gods, and this job can be really hard at times since every monster in all of mythology and even some of the gods want to kill Percy. To keep the two in line is Annabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, who comes off in the beginning as a more badass and bitter-about-life version of Hermione Grainger.
The two series are very similar, with the premises of destiny, growing up, chosen ones and fate of the world. They even both contain a storyline where a character with arachnophobia has to face giant spiders. The fact that Athena’s children are arachnophobic is a personal favorite Easter egg from the PJ books.
The good news is that, after one or two books, Percy Jackson abandons the archetypes and clichés it was built on to become unique from the other series of the time. While they remain the three main characters, Percy, Annabeth and Grover only go on one adventure together.
Two members of the friend group often went on adventures to rescue an endangered member. The villain is often morally ambiguous and is driven by misguided hate as opposed to pure evil. In the second series of books, “Heroes of Olympus,” there are seven main characters, breaking the stereotypical protagonist limit of three.
These are not beautifully written tales with incredible moral and philosophical value, but the story behind them is captivating and ever-changing in a way that few other YA series can match. A whole new world is discovered in almost every book; the lore of this universe is always expanding and growing more intriguing.
The cast of characters is vast and diverse, featuring numerous different cultures and an ever-growing roster of LGBT characters, both so rare and treasured in books aimed at children. These characters die, they date, they break up, they have flaws in the ways real people do. Lots of flaws, really, it’s an ongoing theme throughout all the books.
If you can’t tell, I love these books and honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t at least like them if they’ve read them. They take the well-known lore of mythology and make it modern while staying faithful to the source material. Beyond that, they are just good books and they bind to readers the way YA novels often do.
If the world isn’t magnificent enough, any reader is bound to bond with at least one character. Best of all, in these troubling times, the Percy Jackson books are simple and fun without becoming predictable. The good guys lose a surprising amount of time, keeping things interesting, but the books always end on a high note for our heroes. I like books with stakes but a happy ending nonetheless, and never have I needed happy endings more than now.
Rick Riordan has three series of books within the Percy Jackson universe: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” “Heroes of Olympus,” and “The Trials of Apollo,” which has the last book coming out in September. All of these series are good and don’t require you to have read the others (though it helps with understanding the fun references).
Go read them if you haven’t already, and if you have, do it again. It is always a delight to return to the happiness-giving trinkets of childhood. Revisit an old toy, re-watch your favorite show from when you were ten or go reread a beloved novel from your childhood. Doing these things make my days just a little easier, so why not brighten your own days?