Archive for YA

Percy Jackson: An Epic Trip into Middle-Grade Land

Posted in 2013 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Kristen

I seem to be in the habit of scattering drafts across my blog dash and forgetting to come back and pick them up. I tripped over this one again today, and I find that I’m quite fond of it, so I’m posting it.

I’ve realized something significant about the books in my life: I am caught in a vicious cycle.

I seem to always have a collection of thirty-odd books that I own but have never read. And though I dearly love the library, I sometimes feel a bit silly going there these days, since I have all these books waiting patiently at home, staring plaintively at me from the shelves as they beg me to read them. But there are always new and wonderful books coming out, and I just can’t resist the seductive gleam of a shiny new paperback (or occasionally hardcover–so pretty, so expensive), so I buy it, adding to my already-large bunch of books to be read, and further lessening my need to go to the library. I think I have a problem, guys.

But eventually, I finally break the cycle and go to the dang library. I then proceed to check out a bunch of books I’ve been desperately wanting to read but still feel ambivalent about buying. A while ago, one such was Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

I’ve heard tons of great things about the Olympians series, and I’ve found their premise to be an attractive one–a modern-day summer camp for young demigods who go on quests and give the monsters of legend a run for their money? Sign me up! And despite the fact that the books are geared toward middle-grade readers, I’ve  heard so many people who are my own age rave about them that I had to give them a go.

This proved to be an excellent decision; The Lightning Thief is a pretty delightful book all around. But though I looked forward to reading it, I had a couple of misgivings about it before I began. The most significant of these was that I was afraid I might feel that I have grown too old to be able to connect with the characters. I mean, I’m a firm believer that YA is for more than just young adults, but maybe there are limits. What if the style of the book was too juvenile, or what if the concerns of characters who are ten years younger than me were too far removed from my current place in life? These are kind of strange things for someone like me, who is pretty much a perpetual twelve-year-old, to worry about. But regardless.

Quite honestly, there were moments where the book did make me feel a little old. But throughout the vast majority of the story, I found myself able to identify with the characters just fine. You see, one of the best things about YA and children’s fiction is that it’s almost impossible not to relate to it on some level. The fact is, even if you aren’t a child or teenager anymore, you used to be, so there’s bound to be something you can connect with in a book that features child protagonists. No matter how long it’s been since you were a child yourself, you can still remember going through all those changes and having to face things you weren’t remotely ready for and feeling like everything that happened to you was the end of the world.

That was certainly the case for me with this book. I may not know what it’s like to be a wisecracking, dyslexic boy, but I do know what it’s like to be teased and to wish I had special powers that would help me escape from unpleasant things. I know what it’s like to feel like you never quite know what you’re doing (boy, do I), and yet still be able to somehow make it through, even when you’re in way over your head. I know (albeit to a lesser extent) what it’s like to forge ahead even when the odds seem to all be against you. And those, dear readers, are excellent things to think about at any age.