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The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Chalice of the Gods review: Percy Jackson is also drowning in college apps

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods

BREAKING NEWS: Seniors are now required to complete troublesome quests for Greek gods to get recommendation letters for college! Or this is at least the case for our beloved Percy Jackson. 

After 14 years, children’s author, Rick Riordan, released a new book to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on September 26th to create publicity for the book series’s live adaptation. However, this book was more than mere promotion, it’s a celebration of new beginnings. 

If you’re new to the club, Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a demigod and the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The series spans five books and later expands to include several other series such as Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo. These novels are set in a world where Greek mythology comes to life with modern-day demigods, mythical creatures, and epic quests. Percy, along with his friends, embarks on quests to save the world and confront various gods, monsters, and prophecies. The series is adored for its witty humor, relatable characters, and its ability to teach readers about Greek mythology while keeping them entertained with thrilling adventures and a captivating coming-of-age narrative.

After a long wait and two horrible movie adaptations, I was ecstatic when it was announced that Rick Riordan was working on a series adaptation of the books that would be released on Disney+. This time around, the series had the full input and support of Riordan. While he was trying to get the green light from Disney+ for the series, Riordan struck a deal to reenter the enchanting world of Percy Jackson and craft a new novel. The aim was to reignite excitement and promote the series. This novel would harken back to the format of the original five books. Despite the other series that followed, we lost the hilarious and comforting first-person point-of-view of Percy Jackson. Notably, Riordan’s narrative style had evolved over the years, shifting between first and third person in various works. This new book also brought back the cherished original trio, Percy Jackson, his best friend satyr Grover Underwood, and Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, on a quest together.

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Percy Jackson & The Olympians Disney+ Series Cast on set. (Disney+)

Riordan talked about how this new addition to the series, Chalice of the Gods, would center around Percy’s journey in applying to colleges and getting through senior year. My question is… how much will I relate to Rick Riordan’s writing on a 17-year-old’s senior year and college apps experience?

Senior year, there’s no greater hell. Keeping up with classes, filling out college applications, and of course, getting letters of recommendation. It’s bad enough for us CVHS students, but for Percy Jackson, it’s on another level. In this new book, Percy is hoping to attend New Rome University with his girlfriend Annabeth Chase. The only problem is that he spent most of his junior year with amnesia, battling ancient Greek monsters, and walking through Tartarus (literal hell). During my junior year, I took 6 AP classes, so really, who had it worse? For Percy, getting into New Rome University seems impossible due to all the credits he has to makeup and his inability to focus long enough to get his SAT scores up. To add insult to injury, Zeus, the king of the gods, made it a rule that Percy had to get letters of recommendation from three gods to get a chance at attending New Rome University. And how does he get these letters of recommendation? By completing quests of course! College prerequisites truly are the worst.

THE REST OF THIS REVIEW INCLUDES MULTIPLE SPOILERS!

The first sentence of the first book from Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief (top). The first sentence from the latest book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Chalice of the Gods (bottom). (Katheryn Consuegra)

The first god to seek Percy out is Ganymede, the cupbearer to the gods. Someone had stolen his cup, the titular chalice of the gods, and he needs it back, now. Not only would Zeus be annoyed by the cup being gone, but the cup itself is magical. Gods that drink from the cup are refreshed but any mortal that drinks from the cup will become immortal. This is a dire situation with the potential to cause all kinds of problems. Percy feels really bad for Ganymede and also needs that letter of recommendation. So, Percy agrees to take on the quest, which is when all the fun begins.

It was like a job requirement for them: 1) become a god, 2) get a cool magic thing, 3) lose it, 4) ask a demigod to find it.”

— Percy Jackson, The Chalice of the Gods

What I love is how Riordan perfectly captures what it feels like to balance your school work, college applications, and personal life—feeling like you’re going to start crying every time someone adds a new thing to your to-do list. One of the best quotes representing this experience was, “I looked at my pile of weekend homework and groaned. Another English essay to write… this time about that guy who liked to open cans. Plus math, science, and two chapters of history. And we had to face Iris and her daughter tomorrow. I wondered if it was too late to apply for the night shift at Monster Donut.” This made me think back to all the times that I’ve thought about just giving up and applying to work at Target or devising a plan to marry rich. 

We also see Percy truly vulnerable to the idea of change. The more time he spends at home with his family and friends, the more time he wonders if he’ll regret his decision to leave it all behind. He spends a lot of time with his mom, becomes overprotective of her, and explains that his whole future “feels fragile.” I can’t help but wonder if Riordan broke into my house and ripped some pages out of my diary with this part. 

Katheryn Consuegra stressing out over Common App. (Neela Ravi)

In this new book, Percy is all about the future. A future where his life doesn’t revolve around monsters trying to kill him every day or the fate of the world depending on him. He’s planning his life with Annabeth. He’s scared that this future could easily slip through his fingers. But when he lets himself daydream of the possibility of it coming true, he thinks back on everything that would be changing. As a senior who feels the utter weight of each pending decision letter, this hit close to home. This whole school year, everything in my life feels like it’s slowly fading away. Things will be changing entirely in just a matter of months, and each new supplemental I write feels like a determination of my entire future. Rick Riordan, who is closer to being a senior citizen than a teenager, somehow managed to portray exactly what it feels like to be a senior in high school, so close to freedom and yet so terrified of it. 

At the end of The Last Olympian, the last book in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Zeus offered Percy the opportunity to become a god and gain immortality. Percy refused it because he wanted to stay with his family and Annabeth. Around a year after that decision, everyone still seems rather confused by Percy’s refusal of immortality in the past, but each time Percy rethinks it, he comes to the same conclusion: living one full complete life is better than an eternity stuck in one place. It’s an incredibly mature decision for someone as young as Percy, and a lesson that I really appreciated. 

The idea of growing up and maturing is a strong theme in The Chalice of the Gods. The stolen cup grants immortality. But that means being forever frozen in one place of your life. All of the gods and monsters that Percy meets relate to time, age, and distance (the holy trinity of anxieties that seniors in highschool go through). Ganymede (Prince of Troy that was kidnapped when he was young and forced to live forever), Hebe (goddess of youth), Iris (goddess of the rainbow and messenger), and Geras (god of old age). 

Nostalgia is the doorway back to youth.”

— Hebe, The Chalice of the Gods

During the first part of the quest, the trio was all transformed into 8-year-old versions of themselves after Percy pissed off Hebe, because of course he did. I loved the message that these chapters brought, how the dark side of nostalgia is the realization that the moments being revisited are but echoes, captured in the amber of memory. The beauty of nostalgia isn’t just in the joy it elicits, but in the gentle sorrow it whispers—a reminder of the impermanence of time.

Throughout the book, I read different perspectives on growing up but the one that was the most impactful for me was the lesson that Geras taught, the beauty of aging. He reminds us that with each passing year, one accumulates a treasury of experiences and lessons that make this life worth living. There’s a liberation in embracing one’s imperfections and a profound acceptance of the uniqueness that comes with age. 

From skincare routines that resemble alchemical rituals to the pursuit of the latest wellness trends, society is on a relentless mission to unlock the secrets of eternal youth. Even the Greek gods are constantly changing their appearance and styles to stay younger when they’re blessed with immortality. But shouldn’t we stop wasting all our time trying to live forever and just live? When he’s revisiting his childhood, embracing old age, and refusing immortality, Percy is reaffirming over and over that living one good full life is all he wants and all he asks for. The lines etched by laughter, the crinkles around our eyes from a lifetime of smiles, and the silver threads woven into our hair—all these physical markers tell a story of a life richly lived. It’s such a bittersweet message to give to us when reading another story on this character that we grew up with. I see this book as Uncle Rick trying to tell us that Percy is growing up and so are we, and how beautiful that is.

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About the Contributors
Katheryn Consuegra, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Katheryn is a senior at CVHS and one of Upstream News’ talented Arts and Entertainment editors! It is no surprise that Katheryn is a reviews editor because most of her world revolves around consuming art and media. You will often find her listening to her favorite records, exploring new literary worlds through reading, and even creating her own films. Katheryn has a naturally inviting personality and is a really bright person. If she was stranded on an island the three things she would take with her would be: her camera, a Red CD, and a one-gallon jug of coffee.  
Neela Ravi, Feature Editor
It wouldn't be a surprise if the first words Neela Ravi ever uttered were "Swiftie 4 life," or "stream Taylor's version on Spotify." Constantly equipped with her rosy pink headphones slung around her neck, music seems to be a piece of the puzzle that fulfills Neela's soul. Whether it be bonding with her two sisters over K-pop or building countless memories with her friends at hotels, this CVHS junior has the ability to create healing synergy with those around her.
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    Kevin PhamDec 4, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    I really enjoyed how you connected Percy Jackson to college apps. I thought it was a really unique angle.

    Reply