Not to be dramatic, but I was scarred by this encounter. I was betrayed.
(Don’t worry, I love Uncle Rick.)
At the time of The Last Olympian‘s publishing, Rick Riordan went on a book tour, and one of his stops was at my local community college. I was in seventh grade and at the peak of my Percy Jackson obsession. I was convinced that if I were a demigod, I would be a daughter of Athena. The most recent book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, had played with my emotions with the kiss scene immediately followed by Percy’s near-death experience. I was hyped beyond belief for the dramatic conclusion.
So I went to the event along with my dad. The signing limit was one book per person, so I gave my dad Battle of the Labyrinth and picked up a copy of The Last Olympian at the door. It was packed in there. Stacks of fresh new hardcovers practically lined the walls, and the place was teeming with children and their parents. To my surprise, most of them were younger than me, somewhere from eight to ten years old. I knew that lots of kids my age loved the books, so why weren’t any of them here? Had they not heard about it? Later, I guiltily realized that I hadn’t mentioned it to my friends beforehand, so they very well may not have heard about it.
With all the younglings, the event was a bit raucous, and I can’t remember the exact order of things or what exactly was said. Roughly, I think Rick spoke for a bit, then he took questions, and then there was the signing.
What I do remember is the cardboard cutouts promoting the upcoming movie. Right away, I was suspicious, because Percy Jackson was supposed to have green eyes, and Annabeth most definitely did not have brown hair! I voiced these complaints to my dad, who took them in good humor.
I also remember Rick Riordan promoting the movie and acting pretty excited about it. He said that he had visited the set for Camp Half-Blood and that it was everything he could have imagined. The teaser he showed us looked a bit dark to me, but he was the author. I trusted him. Bolstered by his words, I resolved to look forward to the movie.
I shouldn’t have underestimated all the nine-year-olds. They came prepared with questions, unlike me. One sharp-eyed child asked why Blackjack was originally introduced as female, but later showed up as a male pegasus. Rick admitted that the inconsistency was a mistake not caught in editing.
After questions, we got in line for the signing, which was managed pretty briskly. Nonetheless, Rick was polite and friendly to everyone, allotting enough time to answer one question per person. My dad went before me, and because he was clearly just there in a parental capacity, he moved through pretty quickly. Then I was up. I, stupidly, had not prepared any questions. Rick greeted me and asked for my name, which I gave, and then asked if I had any questions for him, to which I said, “uhh, not really.” He said some other pleasantry, gave back my book, and I was moved along.
Looking back, of course I wish I had asked him something, anything, but my brain shorted out in the moment, and being twelve, I didn’t know what book signings were like. The nine-year-olds were probably warned by teachers or parents, or maybe they were just smarter and more dedicated fans than me. Who knows?
Part of it is definitely a personal trait I didn’t know about until that moment, that I am supremely awkward around celebrities. Not that I’ve met many, but I’ve been to several signings with famous authors since, and I’ve put my foot in my mouth every single time, usually in more embarrassing ways than not having a question ready.
Anyway, I went home, read The Last Olympian, and I was not disappointed in the dramatic conclusion I’d been waiting for.
So where does betrayal come in? If you’re a fan of the series, you may have already picked up on what I’m referring to. That is, the movie.
The movies based on the Percy Jackson series are supremely bad.
I trusted you, Rick Riordan! I went into that theater with expectations of a great movie experience, and that is not what I received! I left the theater disappointed. Disgruntled. Distressed.
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Rick Riordan’s Twitter account, where he has disavowed any connection with the movies and makes fun of them on a semi-regular basis. And you know what? By that time, I understood. Sometimes a movie deal for your book isn’t what you expected it to be. I’m sure that he was more excited than any fan about it, and as a result, more disappointed when it turned out to be garbage.
In the end, I’m still a huge fan of Rick Riordan, and the existence of some terrible movies that capitalize on his name can’t ruin that for me.
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- Review: Circe by Madeline Miller
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