On Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Stealing Fire From the Gods

The Appeal of Percy Jackson
By Paul Collins

Growing up is dangerous. Being yourself is dangerous.

In the classic Australian film, Strictly Ballroom, the chief character, Scott, wants to dance his own steps and wants to do it his way. And all Hades breaks loose!

Scott’s attempts at becoming an individual, at becoming himself, are seen as a crime, an act of rebellion, against the social “group” of which he is a member because Scott is not fitting in; he’s not conforming.

Well, neither is Percy Jackson.

Percy is dyslexic, has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and is always getting into trouble. In most school systems, and society at large, that pretty much makes Percy a loser, the kid least likely to succeed, the kind of kid who’ll never amount to anything and isn’t worth the effort anyway. Ever heard that one before?

Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, turns these so-called flaws on their heads.

Like many kids in his position–labeled a misfit, looked down upon, shoved to the side lines–Percy feels shut out, left behind, and is beginning to feel frustrated and anxious about it. He can’t work out why some of the teachers always pick on him, why things always go wrong even when he tries his hardest to do the right thing.

Of course, once you’ve been stuck with a label–like dyslexic, disruptive, troublemaker–it’s pretty hard to change things back, because you’re dealing with people’s perceptions. They don’t see “you” anymore; they just see the label.

In its own way, The Lightning Thief is a classic “Rags to Riches” plot, a type  …

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