Audiobook Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

In the end, you will fail to save that which matters most.

My daughter is a Percy Jackson fangirl. (How big of a fangirl? She was practically inconsolable when the series ended, she won a trivia contest [and collector’s edition of the first book] at our local Borders during their movie kick-off event, she began studying Greek mythology, she was thrilled to get a copy of The Odyssey for Easter, and she was PISSED about the movie version BEFORE IT EVEN CAME OUT. Et cetera. I mean, I could go on.) So after we listened to all of the Harry Potter books, I promised her we would listen to the Percy Jackson books. As always, we started with book one: The Lightning Thief as read by Jesse Bernstein.

What I Liked

– I think the book is a lot of fun. The characters are great, especially the main trio (Percy, Annabeth, and Grover). Percy and his imperfections make the perfect kind of protagonist for reluctant readers, and the fact that he is a reluctant reader himself would probably endear him even more to that particular demographic. Annabeth is smart, snarky, and fearless. And then there’s sweet sidekick Grover.

The best thing about the trio is that they all have their own reasons for going on the quest, and they all have something to prove. Unlike in the Harry Potter books where Ron and Hermione are mostly helping out because Harry is their friend (and for the good of wizard-kind), every member of this trio has his or her own separate, personal, and mostly selfish reasons for joining the quest.

– The reliance on Greek mythology is awesome. As I stated above, it definitely fueled my daughter’s interest in Greek mythology (as well as other mythologies). There’s lots of fun background info given to the readers, and it’s all easily woven into the narrative instead of an obvious attempt to school us about Greek mythology.

– I also love the way Riordan modernizes Olympus and ties the United States and its geography to the gods and goddesses. That the record company is the entrance to the underworld? Awesome. DOA Recording Studios? BRILLIANT. The depiction of the gods and goddesses is also cool. Ares as a motorcycle head, Poseidon as a retired beach dude, and Zeus as a CEO? Nicely done.

What I Didn’t Like

– This is a very male heavy narrative. Annabeth is smart, snarky, fearless, insecure, and has something to prove. Percy’s mom (who is in an abusive relationship) is interesting and nuanced. However, Percy’s mom is absent for most of the narrative and the other female characters that are present (besides Annabeth) are villains and bullies. I hope that changes in the rest of the books.

– As for the audiobookiness of it all, the narrator is really annoying. Percy sounds like a whiny sixteen-year-old rather than a smart alecky twelve-year-old. And Jesse Bernstein narrates THE WHOLE SERIES. Shoot me now. Also, I should point out that my daughter hates the narration as well. It’s a very, very, VERY good thing the story is so compelling because there is nothing remotely appealing about Bernstein’s narration.

Except Ares. I’ll give him Ares. His Ares is very good.

In conclusion: I recommend the book, but not the audiobook version–unless you like your smart alecky twelve-year-old boys to sound like whiny sixteen-year-olds. The story is superfun, and I can see how and why Percy’s story has become so popular.