Katie Weber

Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

English BA



First Advisor

Eric L. Tribunella, Ph.D.

Advisor Department



Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, the first novel in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, has achieved tremendous success with adolescent audiences nationwide since its original publication in 2005. Despite the widespread success of the books, the critical conversation about the novel and subsequent series remains fairly sparse. The existing critical literature on the series addresses its mythological aspects and adolescents’ reactions to the novel but does not analyze Percy’s status as an adolescent or what the novel suggests about adolescents as a whole through its portrayal of Percy. This thesis first provides an overview of the history of adolescence as a concept and the ways in which American adolescents are stereotyped due to this complex history. Using this framework, I analyze how Percy conforms to, breaks from, or otherwise complicates our ideas of what lies at the core of the contemporary American adolescent. While Percy may be a stereotypical adolescent in some respects, he also frequently deviates from what many consider “typical” adolescent behavior. Through its portrayal of Percy and his quest to retrieve Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt, I argue, The Lightning Thief suggests that stereotypical traits of adolescents which are typically described as “negative” actually constitute their greatest strengths, and that until adults are able to cast aside their preconceived notions of adolescents, we may never be able to see them for who they truly are.