The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” serieshas sold over 180 million copies worldwide, topping the New York Times best-seller list more times than you can count on your fingers. You may have also heard everyone raving about the series on almost every social media platform. If you’re wondering what the hype over these books is all about, you’ve come to the right place.
The Percy Jackson books are so good primarily because they are fun to read and are a series. Moreover, they are suitable for all ages, the characters and storylines are compelling, and it contains important messages without being preachy. They also provide a decent entry into Greek mythology.
To learn more about how Rick Riordan managed to create one of the best-selling book series of all time, keep reading below. In the following sections, I’ll take you through eight of the reasons why the Percy Jackson books are so good, including some insight into its messages, characters, and storylines that set this creation apart from other works in the same genre.
The first and arguably main reason the Percy Jackson books are so popular is they’re generally enjoyable to read. They immerse you in a fun, fantastic world you simply can’t get enough of, so you find yourself returning to the series time and time again.
Rick Riordan has an impeccable writing style that keeps the reader invested. Not only does he boast an impressive vocabulary and excellent way with words, but he also knows when and how to incorporate a joke that people of all ages can enjoy.
I said “impressive vocabulary” earlier, which would probably lead you to think that Riordan likes to drop five-dollar words every few sentences or so, but that’s not the case at all. Like in other excellent works of literature, you won’t find any wasted words on the pages of Percy Jackson books. Everything matters — whether it’s to advance the plot forward or reveal more about a character.
Though the Percy Jackson book series is mainly marketed towards middle-grade and young-adult audiences, it’s actually suitable for just about anyone. That’s because Riordan does an excellent job of utilizing storylines and themes simple enough to be understood by children but layered enough to be appreciated by adults.
I’d argue that the reason other books in the same genre can’t reach the same level of success as the Percy Jackson series is that they don’t cater to a wide enough audience.
Whether you’re looking for a light read or trying to get your little one into literature, the Percy Jackson series is an excellent choice. If you’re planning on getting these books for your child, I guarantee you’ll start enjoying your nightly storytelling sessions much more.
Also, the books may be heavily inspired by Greek mythology, but you don’t have to be a dedicated literature major or academic to follow what’s happening in the books. Riordan does a great job of taking you through everything you need to know.
Although I said this book is a “light read,” it doesn’t talk down to readers at all. Riordan may use words easily understandable by the book’s intended audience, but he weaves a plot that has enough layers in it for adults to unravel and characters that feel real enough for readers to root for (or against, as the case may be).
Though it’s important for books (especially those aimed at children) to be as entertaining and captivating as possible, it’s also essential for them to relay good messages without being too in-your-face about them.
Luckily, the Percy Jackson series is filled to the brim with messages about positivity, inclusivity, and friendship — but is never heavy-handed about these. That’s because the story unfolds such that this type of messaging comes naturally, adding to the book’s value rather than taking away from it.
For example, the support the main character, Percy, receives throughout the whole series from his two best friends, Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase, sends an important message on the value and meaning of friendship and why you should always surround yourself with people who love and support you. Sometimes, these relationships come with their ups and downs, but that’s to be expected.
Moreover, the characters are very diverse and multi-layered. You’ll find excellently-written female characters, people of color, and people with disabilities that take on exciting adventures, which makes the book that much more interesting.
In the oversaturated market of children’s books, writing a work that’s just fun won’t cut it. Since there are so many writers churning out book after book, it’s easy for readers to get tired of overdone tropes that end up repeating themselves in every single story.
To be clear, tropes aren’t bad in themselves. Even the most creative literary work follows at least one trope because tropes (by their nature) aren’t completely avoidable. What’s important is how the author uses that trope relative to how all the other authors that came before did.
For example, when you first read the premise of Percy Jackson, you might be inclined to think it’s just another book that follows “the chosen one” trope (as seen in Harry Potter, for example).
However, though there is a “chosen one” element, the Percy Jackson series always takes the reader in new, unexpected directions. While most books of the same genre tend to focus on the main character or “the chosen one,” Percy Jackson doesn’t fall into this trap.
In fact, you’ll encounter several well-rounded characters who all experience some form of development throughout the series. They’re not just lazily written one-dimensional characters with a single personality trait. Instead, Riordan gives them layers and depth, exploring their backgrounds and the events that made these characters who they are today.
The approach the author has taken in subverting tropes is pretty clever, as he uses Greek mythology to play with the idea of prophecies — namely, how they’re usually viewed and what alternative routes they can take. I’m not going to give too much away, but it’s safe to say that the book will often leave you in awe at the way it’s able to build expectations and then smash them to bits (in a good way).
So, if you or your little one are tired of overdone, boring cliches, I highly recommend the Percy Jackson series. I guarantee it will keep you turning page after page.
No matter how carefully crafted a story is, it will be hard to enjoy if the characters aren’t well-written. Luckily, Riordan writes his characters with so much love and respect. You won’t find any one-dimensional caricatures or actions that’ll make you go, “Huh? Why?” Every character has a fleshed-out background and motive, so you’ll feel like you see a bit of yourself in each of them.
Every character is interesting, and you understand why they do what they do even if you’d personally act differently in their shoes. It’s not likely you’ll meet an annoying character whose name you dread to read on the page.
Since all these personalities are so beautifully developed, it feels natural to root for them and follow them along on their adventures. You get an immaculate amount of detail about their inner world and outer appearance, so you’ll better understand their point of view and also create a more accurate image of them in your head.
No worries, though: The descriptions never become overdrawn or boring, and I guarantee you’ll read through them with the utmost interest. It’s not every day you find such well-written yet still entertaining characters you can follow along, admire and find a piece of yourself in.
The personalities and backgrounds described in the series are so diverse that everyone will find a piece of themselves in at least one of the characters. Representation in children’s literature and media is essential, as it helps their emotional and mental development.
Through adequate representation, children will become more confident, empathetic, and aware of the different cultural backgrounds that surround them.
For example, if you have a little girl, she’ll feel empowered by the multi-dimensional female characters that show a great deal of intelligence, courage, and strength. If your child has ADHD or dyslexia, they’ll also feel comforted by the fact that the demigods and the main character himself deal with the same conditions.
I also want to take the opportunity to note that the way the writer treats disabilities in his books is truly excellent. He treats these characters with the same care and effort as he does the others and doesn’t use them as a cheap ploy to fit in a poorly-written inspirational message.
Instead, these are multi-dimensional characters with plenty of positive attributes that allow us to see that their disability isn’t a personality trait. Instead, it’s simply another physical or mental attribute they have.
Riordan also writes beautifully about characters struggling with their mental health, racial identity, or sexual orientation, which will surely speak to children. They’ll find comfort in knowing that struggling is okay and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help and comfort from the people who care about you.
The last element that I’ll note before I move on to the next section is how the book treats the delicate topic of abusive relationships. The author dives into the domestic abuse that went on between Percy’s mother and stepfather and the kind of effect that that dynamic had on the hero himself.
Though, as mentioned, you don’t need any prior mythology knowledge to read and understand these books, you’ll still learn a lot throughout their run. The way Riordan is able to help children become not only better equipped to handle emotional challenges that may come their way but also more knowledgeable is surely a factor that has contributed to the books’ success.
Since the whole series is based on Greek mythology, the topic is explained excellently throughout the series, allowing children and adults to feel that much more knowledgeable after they’re done with the books. Don’t worry, though: It won’t feel anything like the boring lectures in school.
As you enjoy the storyline and characters, you soon find yourself being able to name many characters from Greek mythology off the top of your head.
The fact that they’re a series is also key to the Percy Jackson books’ success. When you read that last book that left you speechless, you can’t help but want more and anticipate the next book. You know that Riordan is a skilled enough author that he will take every succeeding book as an opportunity to further develop his characters, which adds even more value to his work.
So, if you hate closing a good book because you’re like, “What now?” you’ll love a series like this. As of this writing, the Percy Jackson books are expected to be turned into a TV series in the near future, so you can compare the image you’ve created about these characters in your head with the movie adaptation and look at the story from a fresh point of view.
Before closing off, I also want to mention that the accessibility of this series doesn’t hurt sales either. Now, whether accessibility affects success or the other way around is up for debate; it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. However, since demand has skyrocketed and more bookstores (physical and digital) are carrying the series, people find it easier to get their hands on these widely beloved books.
If it’s not obvious by now, I personally love the books and think the hype around them is warranted. So, if for some reason you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to rush to your nearest bookstore, where you’ll likely find the whole series bundled in one box. These books have a great chance of positively impacting a child’s upbringing, so they’re nothing to sleep on.
- Quora: What made Percy Jackson (the book series) so popular and unique?
- Barnes and Noble: 10 Reasons to Read (or Reread!) the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
- Books & Writing Amino: 10 reasons why you should read Percy Jackson
- WordsRated: Percy Jackson Book Series Statistics
- Humanium: The importance of children’s representation in literature and media