The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Greek myths meet fast-paced adventure in boy-demigod tale.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 58 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 345 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Incorporates many references to Greek gods and myths.

Positive Messages

Strong examples of friendship and loyalty. Includes a vision of the afterlife that mixes Greek/Roman myth with modern. Camp for "Half-Bloods" includes all kids with an absent parent because their non-god parent raised them, so these kids have issues with absent parents and are often looking for parental/god approval.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Percy has dyslexia and ADHD and is a horrible student who has been kicked out of many schools in the past. He goes from that to hero in the course of the book. Though he talks back to authority figures, he's always trying to do the right thing and is incredibly loyal and protective of his new friends -- and he adores his mom. Grover is an avid environmentalist. On the negative side, Percy's stepdad is a lout and there's a mention that he hits Percy's mom.

Violence

Fantasy violence, swordplay, monsters. Percy's mom is apparently killed in front of him. His stepfather has hit her in the past.

Sex

Gods have affairs with mortal women and men, resulting in "half-blood" children. A mild tween crush.

Language
Consumerism

Several products, restaurants, and celebrities mentioned: Coke, Diet Coke, Barbara Walters, the Hilary Duff song "So Yesterday." Plus Percy loves junk food.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Percy's stepfather smokes cigars and drinks beer to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the premise of the story is that Greek gods have affairs with mortal women and the resulting children are demigods. You'll find fantasy violence including swordplay and monsters. Percy's mom is apparently killed in front of him and his stepfather, who drinks to excess, used to hit his mother. There's also a trip to the afterlife, ruled by Hades, with its entrance in Hollywood. Audiobook version read by Jesse Bernstein.

User Reviews

Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byslrohrer July 17, 2010

Be prepared to discuss morals with your child.

My son wanted to read it in 3rd grade, but I read it first. I feel that there's too much content that isn't age appropriate until at least 5th grade.... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byTsion April 9, 2008

A fun mix of modern and myth...A Must-Read!

I recently saw I list of 13 books every kid should read before turning 13. THE LIGHTNING THIEF was high on that list. The book tells the story of Perseus (Perc... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylexi the chihuahua August 9, 2010

BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

i was a little reluctant to read it during the first chapter, but after that it got better and better to the point where i was begging my mom to get the rest of... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byrebma97 May 21, 2012

Modernized Greek Mythology for preteens

It was okay. There were a lot of repetitive battle scenes for me, but I did like the characters and how Rick Riordan modernized Greek Mythology. Violence: Many... Continue reading

What's the story?

Percy Jackson, dyslexic and hotheaded, has been kicked out of yet another school. But stranger things are happening around him, and soon he finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a refuge and training ground for children of the Greek gods, who are still around and causing trouble for humans. He discovers that his dyslexia is caused by his brain being hardwired for Greek, and his hotheadedness is because, well, he's a hero. All too soon Percy discovers which god is his father, and that he's a pawn in a titanic battle between the gods that may ignite World War III. Accompanied by a daughter of Athena and a young satyr, Percy is sent to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt from Hades, who supposedly stole it. But things are even more complicated than he and the gods imagined, and there are dangerous plots afoot.

Is it any good?

Written from Percy's point of view in choppy, attitude-filled prose, there are two levels of fun in THE LIGHTING THIEF. One is the fast-paced quest of a young hero and his friends to save the world. The characters aren't emotionally involving, but nonetheless this part is exciting, suspenseful, and very satisfying. Children who don't know much mythology can still enjoy the breakneck adventure on its own.

For those who do know Greek myths, or those inspired to learn about them, there's another level of fun here -- laughing at the wicked ways the author has updated the gods and monsters for the 21st century. Ares is a cross between a Hell's Angel and a professional wrestler, a math teacher is a harpy in disguise, and demigods can communicate by IMing -- Iris messaging (you'll have to read it to get the details on that one). A fun read for anyone, and a great read-aloud for a class studying mythology.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the references to Greek gods and myths. Finding and identifying the references can be a fun parent/child game.

  • Issues such as urban sprawl and environmental destruction are also raised. Why are they so important to Grover and his kind especially?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate