Well I finally caught up with the rest of you and read The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. Woohoo!
For those who don't know about this book: Percy Jackson has been kicked out of six boarding schools in six years, and he's not even a teenager yet. He's got dyslexia and ADHD, but he's about to find out those aren't his main problems. Percy is a half-blood, half god and half mortal. All the pieces start to fall into place when he realizes he's not just a normal kid. The problem, though, is that he doesn't have normal-kid problems. He has god-size problems, and they're about to come crashing down on him.
This is definitely a Harry Potter read-alike. There were so many similarities it was almost disturbing (pre-teen unexpected hero, magical powers, safe school, smart female friend, clumsy/awkward male friend, aversion to speaking certain names, evil not really dead but growing stronger, etc.). Nonetheless, I loved Harry Potter and anything that follows the same basic formula is going to appeal to me (and others like me who also enjoyed the series).
Harry Potter aside, this book is a great introduction to Greek mythology for young readers. Instead of a list of names and powers, Riordan has brought the gods to life, illustrating their lives in a modern-day world. He doesn't explain every detail, which is good because it will leave the reader begging for more (and maybe even gently push them towards reading more and --gasp!-- learning more on their own). The character of Percy was delightful; the perfect mix of vulnerability and 12-year-old sarcasm. His friends are memorable and lovable, but don't overshadow him (which you would think wouldn't be too hard to do, when you're all half-gods and mythical beings).
4 out of 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Lightning Thief, tearing through it in a weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, and I'll be interested in seeing if Riordan distinguishes himself from so close a resemblance to the Harry Potter books.