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The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

Percy Jackson and the horror of the college application process

Percy+Jackson+and+the+horror+of+the+college+application+process

Look, I didn’t want to grow up. If you’re reading this because you picked up the “Percy Jackson” books as a middle-schooler, had an obsessive Greek mythology phase, eventually got over it, and then learned the author Rick Riordan was writing more books, my advice is: close this newspaper right now. Do not go digging through childhood nostalgia. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is a book series about Percy Jackson, son of the Greek sea god Poseidon, who is constantly called upon to save the world using his water powers, sword fighting abilities, and intense sarcasm. Over five books, he became a quintessential narrator who helped shape a generation of snarky Gen Z preteens.

The first addition to this series since 2009, “Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods,” was released on Sept. 26, 2023. It is also the first time the original main characters — Percy, Annabeth, and Grover — have gone on a quest together since the first book in 2005. Before I started to read, however, I felt an unexpected hesitation. I knew these characters were going to bring up fond memories, but what if this story tarnished the original book series I knew so well? I opened the book anyway. For you. Just kidding, it was for the 11 year old inside of me who waited years for another glimpse into a world I always loved.

These days, Percy Jackson is a high school senior on a quest in exchange for college recommendation letters from the gods (as if he hasn’t already done enough for them). His quest is to find a magical stolen chalice, which he searches for across New York while adding in constant comedic quips. Oftentimes the humor becomes too over-the-top, but the story finds clarity in serious moments.

The basic structure of this quest is similar to any other in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” but the vastest difference is how self-aware this book is. The first obstacle in Times Square is Hebe, the goddess of youthfulness. In the end, Percy Jackson wrestles Geras, the god of old age. In every facet of this book, Percy has to deal with the consequences of growing up, reflecting on his difficult past, and fighting the relatable plight of trying to get an acceptance letter from powerful deities who do not care about you or your extenuating circumstances.

I felt called out by this book. Over the course of my life, I have read about Percy, Annabeth, and Grover growing up, and it is not easy to accept that I have grown up with them. One of my issues with the book was that the stakes felt too low. Is Percy seriously endangering his life, again, for a recommendation letter? However, this narrative was written for the original fans of the series who are getting older, outgrowing childish things, and searching for them again when they want to feel warmth.

There is a way to be nostalgic without shrinking the stakes. In my opinion, “Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods” is not as good as the original series. It does not have lengthy plots, sprawling magnitude, nor calamitous villains, but it does have beloved characters people still care about. In the end, this is a book about the fanbase as much as it is about Percy Jackson. Though it has flaws, it is clearly written to show young readers that growing up does not always have to be feared, and the things we used to love will always be waiting for us to come back.

Release Date: September 26, 2023

Grade: B

Image courtesy of Read Riordan

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Kaley Chun, Senior Staff Writer
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