Percy Jackson has been diagnosed with both ADHD and dyslexia, and when he goes missing, his stepfather reports to the media that Percy is a delinquent. At first, it seems like Percy is a hopeless student, failing all of his classes and accidentally destroying school buses when he goes on field trips. Even though Percy struggles to succeed in his classes, he is hardly worthless. In fact, what no one realizes is that Percy is in fact a hero.
When Percy begins to discover his abilities as a demigod at Half-Blood Hill, he is again underestimated. In particular, Annabeth struggles to believe in Percy’s abilities to save the world from the coming war between Zeus and Poseidon. Yet over time, it turns out that Percy contains hidden qualities that no one has fully appreciated. He not only recovers the lightning bolt, but also discovers that Kronos is plotting against the Olympians.
Percy’s mother also has hidden worth. On paper, Percy’s mother is a high school drop-out. However, she dropped out of school to care for her ailing uncle. Percy’s mother now lives with an abusive husband, Gabe Ugliano. Readers later learn that Gabe’s “smell” is so strongly human that he repels monsters from Percy. Percy’s mother has endured a great deal to protect her son, and although she may not seem very successful, Poseidon describes her as a “queen among women.” By the end of the novel, Percy’s mother turns Gabe into a statue using Medusa’s head, sells the statue for a small fortune, and enrolls in a university so that she can become a writer.
Finally, Grover also follows a similar character arc. Although he failed to save Thalia, it turns out that he did so in order to save both Luke and Annabeth. While some of Grover’s peers doubt his courage, he stands by Percy’s side in fights against the Furies as well as against Medusa. In fact, Grover accompanies Percy all the way to the underworld. While Grover may seem like a mere comic-relief character, he possesses hidden qualities of bravery and loyalty.
By employing a wide variety of characters that possess hidden qualities, Riordan is speaking directly to young adult readers. The main quest in The Lightning Thief is created to inspire children to believe in themselves and to develop their potential, regardless of labels. Indeed, when Percy is about to meet Hades, Poseidon’s servants advise that he believe in himself, for...
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