When I first started working at the store, I had no kid-cred until I started recommending Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It's a really fun series, steeped in Greek mythology in a freshly imagined way, with enough action to make a screenwriter drool. Fittingly, it is owned by Disney Hyperion, so I'm sure we'll see a movie, or a TV show, or something soon.
The last book in the series, The Last Olympian, came out this Tuesday, and after I was sure there were enough copies in the store to create 3 displays, I borrowed a copy and read it over the last couple of days. It was exactly everything that the series has always promised: monsters, swords, angry gods, pithy dialog, pretty girls and a hero who loves nothing more than to charge into an angry mobs of monsters. So of course, it was good fun, just as all the other books were. However, the one thing I was a little disappointed about was the lack of emotional depth displayed in the face of extreme tragedy. While Riordan ups the body count considerably, killing kids and monsters and gods alike, the emotional reactions of the characters were very flat, not to mention very fleeting. And aside from making it a less compelling read, it may also do the further disservice of downplaying the psychological destruction that violence wreaks. I'd had no qualms with the glorified violence before, since it was all directed at monsters, who just dissolved and then reformed anyway. But in this last installment, the narrative voice Riordan uses seemed to get in his way a little, and he was unable to create a compelling psychological landscape. While that may seem like a lot to ask from a series about Greek gods squatting in Manhattan, The Battle of the Labyrinth, (the 4th installment, and my favorite in the series) addresses the difference in immortality achieved though art or through godliness. So clearly Riordan is capable of asking big questions.
But of course, I say this all with the caveat that this may be one of the most enjoyable series for kids out there right now. There's not a single kid I've turned onto this series that didn't like it, and it appeals to kids who spend all their time reading and reluctant readers alike. Plus, it's never a bad idea to retell the Greek myths. I just wouldn't be quite so quick to compare it to Harry Potter, is all.