Sunday, July 11, 2010

Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson

Hey sports fans! During my little "Potter Hiatus," I took the chance to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. If you don't know anything about them, I'll give a brief description. Percy is the son of Poseidon... and saves the day. The End. Told you it would be brief :)

A colleague of mine at the dental school recommended this 5-book series because he claims they're similar to Harry Potter, and he knowing what a rabid HP fan I am, suggested I give them a try. So I'm posting this as a book review for any of yous who are considering giving them a try.


As a stand-alone series, it's a pretty fun and easy read, but comparing it to Harry Potter is like comparing the contents of my daughter's diaper to the Mona Lisa. My biggest beef with the series is that it doesn't grow and mature like the Harry Potter series does. What I mean by that is the first Percy Jackson book reads very similar to the first Harry Potter book. Both main characters are just learning about the special worlds they are a part of. In the second Harry Potter book, Harry and his friends mature and the overall plot grows in depth and complexity. In the second Percy Jackson book, however, new characters are added, but we don't get a maturing of the characters even though they age along a similar timeline as the HP characters do. Both of these series are aimed at young adult readers, but the difference between the two is that the last book in the HP series is aimed at an older, more mature audience while the Percy Jackson series stays at that 11-13 year old range.

Another problem I have with the Percy Jackson series is that the characters don't react to dangerous situations like the average person would. When faced with impending doom, Percy still manages to pop off a few wisecracks or puns. Facing the same situation, Harry deals with his emotions in a much more real and understandable way. I think the way the characters are treated in the Percy Jackson series does a disservice to the readers. Yes, the pre-teens will still love the books, but in my opinion, they won't be able to relate to the characters on any kind of personal level. In contrast, in HP, a lot of people can relate to someone like Ron whose accomplishments are overshadowed by those of his older siblings. He feels that he has to take the backseat to Harry and sometimes Hermione. Some people can also relate to being brainy like Hermione, but also being aware of lacking some social grace and being the target of scrutiny. Some may even be able to relate to being thrust in the spotlight like Harry despite a multitude of insecurities.

The Percy Jackson series does have some redeeming qualities. The books are very action packed and I never felt that they dragged in any regard. The author does a good job of keeping the plot moving forward. Another good thing is that I actually learned quite a bit about Greek Mythology. The author also does a good job of not "Disney-fying" the Greek Gods. For example, he doesn't shy away from the fact that the gods had extra-marital affairs and that even the gods are flawed and don't always do "good."

Overall, the series was a quick and enjoyable read and I would recommend them for a light-hearted adventure. I would not, however, recommend starting a blog discovering the depths and complexities of Percy Jackson.