The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is a perfectly normal sixth grader, if by "perfectly normal," you mean that he has dyslexia and ADHD, and has been kicked out of every school he has attended because weird, often bad, things happen to him.
Let's take an example. In his sixth grade year, Percy went on a field trip to a museum. On this field trip, one of the class bullies just happened to fall into a fountain (some of the students said that it was like the water reached out and pulled her in). At this point, his math teacher, Mrs. Dodds, took him into the building and tried to kill him. He defended himself with a sword that started out as a ballpoint pen and the teacher blew away like sand in a strong wind. Oh, and after he killed Mrs. Dodds, a new math teacher he had never seen before suddenly appeared and then the teachers and his fellow students started telling him that there never had been a teacher at their school named Mrs. Dodds.
Perfectly normal, right?
The field trip was towards the end of the school year, so soon afterwards, Percy goes home for the summer. His mother tells him that it is time for him to go to a camp that his father, whom he has never met, recommended. It is not just a summer camp, though. For some of the campers, it is a year-round camp, and Percy's father thought that Percy should be a year-round camper. After a freak hurricane and a run-in with a Minotaur (during which his mother disappeared in a flash of golden light), Percy finally arrives at the summer camp and is told that the camp is for demigods -- children of a Greek god and a mortal.
Percy further finds out that on the winter solstice, someone stole Zeus's master bolt -- the weapon that Zeus uses to make his lightning bolts. Zeus suspects that Percy did it, since none of the gods knew that Percy even existed. However, Chiron, one of the administrators of the camp (and Percy's Latin teacher in his sixth-grade year), believes that the thief may have been Hades. To prove his innocence, Percy goes on a quest to Los Angeles (since the entrance to the Underworld is in the West) to visit Hades, retrieve the thunderbolt, and clear his name. Percy takes two companions with him -- Annabeth, who is a daughter of Athena, and his best friend Grover, whom, it turns out, is a satyr.
The "meat" of Riordan's books is the quest. This is where we meet the bulk of the characters from the mythology that he is exploring (so far he has focused on Greek, Egyptian, and Roman mythologies, and has a series on Norse mythology slated to begin in 2015). The quest is also something of a travelogue. I wonder if Riordan has a map of the world on the wall and is marking the places his characters have visited. In "The Lightning Thief," Percy, Grover, and Annabeth visit St. Louis, Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Since Percy was the last person to see his mother, he is suspected in his mother's disappearance or death. As a result, all along their quest, they are dogged by the media.
This series is one that I recommend wholeheartedly to just about everyone I know (including the book vendor at my store recently. She confessed that she didn't know much about the kids' books, so I said that Percy Jackson would be a great place to start). If someone I am talking to says that they are looking for a good book to read, the first words out of my mouth are nearly always, "Have you read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series?" The way that Riordan re-envisions the characters of mythology for the modern era is a particular strength. Ares, for example, appears as a biker with shotgun holsters attached to the fuel tank of his motorcycle. I love so many of the characters, even some of the ones that we maybe are not supposed to love, like Mr. D. The flow of the dialogue among the characters is first-rate, and once the plot gets going, the travelogue-and-adventure format makes the book seem to fly past.