Monday, May 25, 2020

Rereading Percy Jackson During Quarantine | My Thoughts on the Series 10+ Years Later!

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog! I haven't visited this space in a while, but I wanted to revist this little corner of the internet I made so many years ago! Now that quarantine has slowed life down a little, I want to try and dedicate some more time to the blog. No promises that I'm going to be updating frequently, but you might see me peek my head up every now and again.

In the midst of finals season earlier this month, I desperately wanted to reread the Percy Jackson series. I follow Rick Riordan on twitter, and for the last couple months, he had been teasing followers about a potential adaptation. These tweets regenerated my interest for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which I devoured as a kid. I generally credit the series for inspiring my voracious reading, but I had never reread the series, fearing that it wouldn't have lived up to my rose-colored hindsight.

Half a month later (with some breaks between the books), I have finished the series! Perfect timing, too, as Percy Jackson and the Olympians (PJ&O) is going be adapted on Disney+ as a television series. While I would have been excited about this news regardless, I'm much more eager for the adaptation now that the series is fresh in my mind.

As a college student, I was wary that I wouldn't enjoy the Percy Jackson series that much. And to an extent, I was correct. Back when I read the series when I was 9 and 10 years old, PJ&O took over my head; I constantly was thinking about the series, how the final book would play out, and yes, even wrote my first fanfiction set in Riordan's world. Percy's problems felt like my problems. After rereading the series, I am not spurred to write fanfiction, nor do I have the intense feeling of camaraderie with Percy. As a kid reading the series, I felt as if I was right there, following Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and all the others during their quests. As a 20 year old reading the series during a global pandemic, I found the books to be a great source of escapism, bringing me laughs and a wave of nostalgia. I don't think this experience is inferior to my first, and generally speaking, the series held up.

Upon rereading the series, I faced each book with more trepidation, worrying that this was the book that was going to disappoint me. As I finished each book, my expectations also grew, making a possible disappointment even more threatening. As I picked up The Lightning Thief, the first in the series, I wasn't expecting much. I was thinking, "Okay, I liked this book back in 2008. I knew I liked it then, but I also know it's not my favorite in the series." These are generally my thoughts now, as well. The Lightning Thief was such a fun and quick read, perfect for tweens and adults alike, but I still had a general sense of detachment. Reading about Percy, Annabeth, and the whole cast of characters was like seeing an old friend you fell out of touch with; pleasant, but acknowledging the distance, and how much closer you were years ago.

Upon reading the second book, I lowered my expectations; I remembered Sea of Monsters as my least favorite. Well, my memory proved wrong. As I continued the series, I enjoyed each book more than the last (though the final two books are very close), and I was surprised that my memory reserved Sea of Monsters as my least favorite! Upon rereading Sea of Monsters, I had such a fondness for characters that were introduced or got more page-time, like Tyson, Bessie, and Clarisse. As a 9 year old reading the book, I empathized the most with Percy, getting annoyed when he would, never contemplating other's perspectives. As a 20 year old with a complex approach - I would hope, at least, since I'm majoring in English - I found myself gravitating towards the new characters. Perhaps this is because Percy, Annabeth, and Grover felt so familiar; I remembered them much more than the secondary characters. While reading about them was a place of comfort, the expanded cast brought a freshness to my reading experience, opening up plot lines and internal conflicts I had forgotten about as years passed. I found myself recognizing Percy's flaws, and enjoying the book more because of them. I wasn't completely drawn into the story as my past-self was, but I appreciated how Sea of Monsters built upon the first novel's foundational world-building, introducing more characters, places, and plot points.

If any book was a disappointment, it would be The Titan's Curse. In my head, The Titan's Curse was my favorite of the series; I was expecting one thing, and got another. Spoiler: this is all because I had misremembered some of my favorite scenes occurring in The Titan's Curse, when they actually occurred in the Battle of the Labyrinth! However, this is also the book that introduced real consequences. We had our first character deaths - which I remembered, but was still dreading - and the world continued to expand, introducing Artemis and her hunters, Apollo, and the Titans. Back in the day, I loved this book. Upon reading it now, I recognize how The Titan's Curse works as a bridge, still having some juvenile jokes that were key to the first two books, but introducing dire consequences, which become more prevalent as the series continues.

The Battle of the Labyrinth was better than I remembered! This fourth installment was a quintessential adventure novel, continuing to expand on the world-building, upped the ante, and included key moments for the Percabeth ship - a favorite of mine back in the day. We see the trauma on the first three books really affect Percy and co. in this penultimate novel, and the stakes grew. It also helped that I didn't remember the narrative in nearly as much detail as I did the previous three. I loved rereading the Calypso chapter, which I remembered loving as a kid, and I still have a great fondness for today; Percy's interaction with Calypso perfectly captured his internal struggle to be a hero, which conflicts with his desire to be a normal kid. I'll be honest, though, reading each book in such quick succession was starting to wear on me. I took a week-long break before jumping into the last book in the series, and I had an absolute blast.

The Last Olympian felt like a breath of fresh air, and after a week-long break of the series, was a fantastic finale. Unlike the last four novels, which featured Percy and his friends going on a quest and going up against several smaller enemies, Percy's friends all coalesce to face the final big bad in The Last Olympian. However, there were a couple of that threw me, such as Grover's lack of presence, and some pretty obvious foreshadowing to deaths. Riordan focuses on sideline characters, giving them complexities only to kill them off. Obviously, this made for a more impactful death scene, but it was also a clue onto his was going to face their untimely demise. In fact, the consequences felt a bit tame, with none of the core three characters facing any dire consequences. Despite all of this, I was completely drawn into the story. Even though I remembered The Last Olympian quite well - I've reread this one before, unlike the others - I still had a blast, and was impressed by how Riordan expertly plotted the series, expanded the world-building throughout the novels, and tracked each character's progression. 

Upon rereading the series, I found some flaws that nine and 10 year old me didn't catch. But none of this hindered my enjoyment; I had a wonderful time revisiting these books, which spurred me to become such an avid reader. I'm now a blogger, an English major, a bookseller, and perusing a career in publishing. If it weren't for books like these, I wouldn't have had such a passion for reading, which eventually became a passion for publishing. This series doesn't get all the credit - of course, I've put in a lot of hard work and hours, cultivating this! - but it was a foundational text in becoming the reader I am today. When reading the books, I was completely drawn into the story, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Riordan's back-list and his imprint, hoping to capture that same magical feeling.
 Have you been rereading your childhood favorites during quarantine?

Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy reading!

Genni at Ready, Set, Read!