So when I finish reading a book that no one else I know has read, I have to find someone else’s opinion. Sometimes people see or interpret things in ways I never think about, or thought differently, or that I never saw at all, and quite often it’s eye-opening. Usually, I like holding conversation, but since I can’t find another person to talk to, I have to find something else.
The other option? People’s reviews on a site known as:
It really is a good site for reviews, discussion boards, and it recommends books based on your reading list.
And so when I finished Rick Riordan’s The House of Hades, I ran to my computer. Most of it was standard “ZOMG THIS WAS AMAZING” so I kept digging for something with substance. And then I found this discussion board:
So for those of you who are going to but haven’t read the book yet, stay I’m warning you now, STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS POST. Pretend you never saw this, and (hopefully you will) return when you have read this book.
Or, if you don’t care, continue. Because I’m not here to talk about the plot, or the characters, or the writing style.
Well, actually, just one in particular. As the image above suggests, I’m talking about Riordan’s character Nico di Angelo.
For those who are reading this with no knowledge of the books, here’s the breakdown: The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series and The Heroes of Olympus Series are novels aimed at children aged 9-14 about the secret world of demigods: children who are half human, half Greek/Roman god. They go on quests that mirror Greek and Roman Mythology, but the setting is modern day. The protagonist is Percy Jackson, a son of Poseidon, who goes on quests and fulfills prophecies. Another secondary character is Nico di Angelo, a son of Hades who is perpetually an outcast due to his parentage and personality.
In his recent addition to the series, The House of Hades, Riordan has made it canon that Nico has a crush on Percy, and is therefore gay. Naturally, the fans who were waiting for this are raving, and the ones who aren’t are shocked. Thus, this particular discussion was pretty popular on the site. And so I clicked on it.
What is expected to happen did happen: it became a debate about exposing children to homosexuality. But that’s not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about this particular comment:
- The plot took a major nosedive and is no longer in your interest
- The characters lost character
- The writing deteriorated so much so you couldn’t stand it
- The topic suddenly became offensive
- Some big conspiracy was revealed about the author in which they are just drawing out the plot to steal your money
- Aliens brainwashed you and you no longer remember the series even existed
There are so many things wrong for this person’s reasoning. And what’s worse, there are several people who agree with it:
I understand people who are homophobic the same way that I understand people who are afraid of things like spiders, sharks, and the dark. It’s something they are averse to and that’s completely fine. People are free to have an opinion.
And I know what you’re thinking: didn’t you just say above they can quit if the book becomes personally offensive?
The thing is, this was never the main point of the story. This does not suddenly change what the books have been about, it just changes what your perception of a single character. These books have always been about adventure: quests, action, fighting monsters, doing the right thing. Rooted in Greek Mythology, the series has already covered a lot of controversial and heavy topics: illegitimate children, adultery, incest, beastiality, absentee parents, child orphans, warfare, and suicide to name a few. I pretty sure a professor of the Classics could name a few more. Nobody raised their pitchforks and torches to that.
So why now? Look at what this person says:
The books are still, and always will be about adventure. They are still about quests, saving the world, and trying to do the right thing. The plot is still very good. Why does a gay character change that? He’s not even the main character–Nico is obscure, secretive, often put to the side in both the plot and the reader’s minds (well, at least my mind). Riordan is very smart in the way he words things. Everything is implied. He never outright says “incest”, “illegitimate”, “queer”, “homosexual”, or “gay”. There’s a scene in the previous book where a teenage girl is offered to be the wife of a bull. A BULL. How is that not offensive while this is?
Other people claimed Riordan was jumping the “let’s make a character gay because it’s hipster” bandwagon and Nico was the most likely candidate. NO. True, Riordan didn’t plan for Nico to be gay, but when you write a character who is introduced at the age of eleven, is your main concern going to be their sexuality? Of course not! And when logic is applied, it does make sense. Percy is Nico’s favourite game come to life: a hero who cares for his friends and beats up monsters.
The idea that parents weren’t warned also irritates me. Do parents need warning? I suppose so, this opens the topic of homosexuality up for a lot of kids. But some parents don’t want their children knowing about it. To that, I ask the parents, “Do you want your children to grow up naive? What if they meet some who is gay or even worse, discover that they are gay and don’t know what to do?” This is what happens in the real world. And a parent’s job is to prepare their children for the real world. Riordan did not suddenly make up gay people, and this is an accessible and frankly entertaining icebreaker.
Despite that, I don’t think that was the point. Riordan wasn’t trying to act as the mediator of children and gay rights. I think he was trying to give a hero to kids who are confused, who are coming to realize or know that they are gay. This book series was initially written for his son, who is dyslexic and diagnosed with ADHD, and as such demigods are diagnosed similarly, with valid reasoning. He was a middle school teacher after all, so he knows that children struggle with this. Nico, despite having certain flaws, has admirable traits: he’s determined, he’s brave, he’s willing to sacrifice his own for the greater good. And if he just so happens to like a boy, so what?
Then there are the words “violating” and “horrifying”. There are several other things people find violating and horrifying. But I think this particular post sums it up:
While the message here was that people are free to say what they want, I find it interesting that people don’t get like this about sexism, racism, or any other kind of discrimination. Despite seeming anti-homophobic, I have to mention this. I constantly kept seeing the word “chose” between “Nico” and “to be gay” in this forum. People do not choose to be gay. They simply are. Simply the way straight people are straight, that black people are simply black, and that females are females. (Not to say that it is genetic, which is scientifically impossible, merely natural.)
And finally, my least favourite word in the post: “episode.”
Was this a heart attack? A seizure? Does a feeling suddenly come over you for five seconds when you decide you want to declare you are something that others may conceive as controversial and then return to the “normal” state of being?
The answer to all of these questions is NO.
It was never an episode, it was a confession. And yes, it was just as dramatic, but that’s because Nico doesn’t want to be this way. And I think that’s the key. Nico is from the 1940s (long explanation, just go along with it). A time where Hitler was sending Jews, homosexuals and gypsies to concentration camps. It makes sense that he’s uncomfortable with the way he is. Nico is well aware that Percy won’t ever return his feelings, that he’s already an outcast due to his parentage, and that some people are uncomfortable with people who are gay, and admitting it would just further this.
I’d also like to note that even though Jason (the only witness to the confession) assures him that it’s okay, he cannot speak for everyone, despite saying that their friends will also be supportive. Hazel and Frank, for instance are quite conservative, and their reaction may be mixed. If his reaction is why people think this book is explicitly supporting gay rights, then they have to realize that this is the opinion of only ONE CHARACTER.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that (being as neutral as possible) the books don’t revolve around Nico being gay. They revolve around teenagers going on a quest to save the world. And for a book series that’s so good a reader has dedicated themselves to reading nine books, it seems ridiculous to give up on something that is arguably pale in comparison to all the other controversial topics that the readers are exposed to, that isn’t even the main plot.
To those who have expressed dislike/discomfort and are threatening to boycott consider this: you may never like the idea of a gay character, but you did like the books. You can hate the character, but there are so many more that you’ve come to love. Yes, this will be addressed again, but knowing Riordan, it will be classy. You know that this is never what the books have been about, so why now?
Link to the discussion board: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1526242-nico-you-know-what-i-m-talking-about-o-o
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” -Oscar Wilde