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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anyone Out There?'s summer? And this is the only excuse I have for not posting any new entries?

Okay, okay, it's a lousy excuse, I know. But it's the only one I got. So take it or leave it.

On that note, I've actually been quite busy with reading all these new books that I got from the library. More specifically, I've been catching up on my Rick Riordan, with his new series, The Heroes of Olympus, the sequel series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I've also acquired the second book to his The Kane Chronicles, The Throne of Fire, which has Ancient Egyptian mythology, as opposed to Ancient Greek/Roman.

One of the things I admire most about Riordan's writing for children (and the young adults who read them) is that it is the voice of an authentic twenty-first century kid, whether it's a boy or girl. Not many writers, male or female, can pull off writing in different perspectives of either gender and still sound realistic. The first series, Percy Jackson, was written solely in the point of view of the male main character, the titular Percy Jackson. The Heroes of Olympus is written in three different perspectives, two separate boys and one girl (Jason Grace, Leo Valdez and Piper McLean). The Kane Chronicles is written in two perspectives, brother and sister, Carter and Sadie Kane.

I speak from experience when I say it's hard to write in the voice of a boy. I do what's easiest for me, writing in the voice of a girl, an fairly intelligent and articulate girl.  Riordan doesn't only do just a boy's voice, but a girl's as well, in first person (in Kane Chronicles) and in third person (The Lost Hero). That's a lot of voices, plot lines, backgrounds and characters to keep track of!

Ancient mythology can be confusing, heady, and complex, not to speak of more than slightly morally questionable. Ancient pagan religions and all that. But Riordan applies all these in a way that actually makes sense to a reader of the twenty-first century.  I mean, Greek mythology? It's sad. It's depressing. There's hardly ever a happy ending. People die in a variety of horrible ways, maimed, betrayed, losing limbs, families, friends and homes. Then they're sent to a decidedly sucky afterlife in the Underworld, where they spend the rest of eternity either doing nothing, or being horribly tortured on account of whatever hideous crimes they've committed while they were alive. Only a very few are sent to the only happy place, Elysium and the Isles of the Blest. And Egyptian mythology is even darker--families pitted against each other, kings usurped, torturous journeys, never-ending battles. Their version of the afterlife is hardly better than the Greeks.

But Riordan infuses these worldviews with hope, energy, and change. It isn't just stagnant, it comes alive with the kid's life and excitement. His characters are funny, flawed, intelligent and fully aware of the problems in their world. They're not content to leave the problems alone, but to go out and actively change them. They face loss, death and heartbreak. The monsters Riordan's characters face are real, scary and very dangerous. There are examples of completely jerk gods.

But the characters don't ever give up hope. They keep moving forward with determination, courage and a well-placed very funny quip here and there.

I give full props to Mr. Riordan for creating these worlds and giving kids a chance to explore these ancient mythologies for themselves. And not only that, for giving kids a chance to love reading, to devour 500-plus page novels in one sitting, and for giving also adults (like myself, more or less) a chance to enjoy the energy that accompanies reading his novels.

Over & Out,

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