YA Spotlight: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

After the explosive success of the Harry Potter franchise, many wondered what the next book and film series would captivate the world next. Released eight years after Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, a new challenger appeared: Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief.

Originally published in 2005, the story follows Percy (birth name Perseus) Jackson, an outcast boy with ADHD, a single-parent mother, and a mysterious past. Sound vaguely familiar? Percy has always been different, and always wondered why his father abandoned his mother before his birth. One day while touring a museum Percy finds himself attacked by a creature straight out of Greek mythology, one of the Furies of Hades. After somehow defeating it, Percy and his best friend race to Camp Half Blood where Percy finds out that he's descended from one of the Greek gods! Noone knows who though, and it's one of many mysteries to be solved.

The other mystery is the disappearance of the Master Bolt, the signature weapon of Zeus, King of the Gods. For some reason, blame falls on Percy, who must somehow find the stolen item and return it to Zeus, before the angry deity can go to war with his fellow gods, Hades and Poseidon. Percy takes up the quest, joined by best friend Luke and the recently met Annabeth, daughter of Athena. After many adventures, Percy manages to find the bolt, return it to Zeus, avert the war, and finds out that his father is none other than Poseidon; it turns out, the most powerful gods aren't supposed to have kids, so Poseidon had to abandon Percy and his mother in an attempt to prevent the others from finding out about him. With just a bit of help from his friends and a few other godly beings, Percy is able to save the day, just in time for another adventure to appear on the horizon.

The book was originally published under Miramax Books, but later additions were republished under Disney-Hyperion. Under the overall Disney umbrella, Riordan and Percy Jackson enjoyed explosive success as Percy Jackson quickly became one of the most popular and best-selling books of the decade among middle schoolers. Riordan sold the publishing rights to the book for enough money to enable him to quit and focus on writing full-time. 

A year before publication, 20th Century Fox picked up the movie rights to Riordan's then-upcoming book. In 2007, the studio recruited Chris Columbus as director, fresh from filming the first two Harry Potter films, with young actors Logan Lerman (Percy), Alexandra Daddario (Annabeth), and Brandon T. Jackson (Grover) in the lead roles. As most film adaptations endure, the film script dealt with its share of creative alterations, and was eventually released in 2010, with a gross of $226 million, and significant backlash from most of the fanbase and Riordan himself.

All hope is not lost for Percy Jackson, however. In 2020, Riordan announced the production of a live-action adaptation of his series, to be aired on Disney +. Filming began in June 2022, and the series is set to premier in 2024, with the first season covering the entirety of the book.

The  book's success of course led to a sequel (quite a few of them, in fact). The Lightning Thief was followed by 2006's Sea of Monsters, 2007's The Titan's Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth in 2008, and The Last Olympian in 2009. Since then, several other series and books by Riordan have released, along with a slew by other authors contributing to the world of Percy Jackson under the label of Rick Riordan Presents.

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief

Happy reading!

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