"After the Ares kids came the Hephaetus cabin- six guys led by Charles Beckendorf, a big fifteen year old African American kid. He had hands the size of catchers mitts and a face that was hard and squinty from looking into a blacksmith forge all day. He was nice enough once you got to kow him, but no one ever called him Charlie or Chuck or Charles. Most just called him Beckendorf." (Sea of Monsters p. 55)
The introduction of an African American character was unexpected and greatly appreciated. In the second book, Sea of Monsters Beckendorf is referenced a few times, he's great with metals and is the only camper who will work with Percy's half brother Tyson, a cyclops. So not only did the Riordan have an African American character, he also made use of him.
Now I'll get to my issue with the final book. (which I should've seen coming)
Here are the clues- 1) Beckendorf first appears on page 10. Beckendorf is a secondary character he has never mentioned so early in the previous books. 2) Beckendorf goes on a mission with Percy. Beckendorf is not in Percy's inner circle. So for him to go on a mission with Percy in the first chapter is a serious red flag. I shame my people for not recognizing these obivious clues. To be fair I was blinded by my love of Percy, I was so happy to have the final book in my hands I couldn't see straight. My eyes cleared up right quick when I saw what was about to happen. The plan was for Beckendorf and Percy to plant a bomb on a ship and make their escape. The two are captured before they can get away.
"I swallowed. One of the giants had his hand around Beckendorf's neck. I was in no shape to rescue him, and even if I tried, he would die before I got there. We both would. Beckendorf mouthed one word. Go. I shook my head. I couldn't just leave him. The second giant was still rummaging through the peach cans, which meant Beckendorf's left arm was free. He raised it slowly- toward the watch on his right wrist. I wanted to scream, No!. Beckendorf closed eyes tight and brought his hand up to his watch. I had no choice. I threw my sword like a javelin at Kronos. It bounced harmlessly off his chest, but it did startle him. I pushed through a crowd of monsters and jumped off the side of the ship. The Princess Andromeda blew up from both sides, a massive fireball of green flame roiling into the dark sky, consuming everything. Beckendorf, I thought. Then I blacked out and sank like an anchor toward the bottom of the sea." (pgs.26-27)
Also I didn't see this coming because its 2009, I thought the sacrificial death of the one black character so the white character can live was a thing of the past. I pointed out the problem I had with this book to two co workers, who also read this series, neither remembered Beckerdorf's African American. Riordan, establishes Beckerdorf's race in Sea of Monsters and doesn't feel the need to do so again in the Last Olympian. It's the only decision regrading him in this final book that I agreed with. It's easy for my co-workers to forget, it such a small detail when you're the majority but when not many characters look like you in bestselling series, its unforgettable. So does every reader of color remember Beckerdorf's race? No, nothing a 100%, though I would put it at a high percentage.
Beckendorf's sacrifice was bad enough but Riordan seemed to be pushing my reading bottoms. He would not let it go.
"Poseidon stroked his beard. "Percy, Beckendorf chose a heroic death. You bear no blame for that." (p39)
"Percy, Beckendorf's sacrifice wasn't in vain. You have scattered the invasion force." (p40)
"We'd already lost so many people over the summer, but this was the worst. With Beckendorf gone, it felt like someone had stolen the anchor for the entire camp." (p47)
The anchor of the entire camp, Really! Reading that made me sick. If you've read this series, you know there is nothing in the previous books gives weight to that, Beckendorf was never talked about like that before. Its not enough that Riordan decided to sacrifice the only African American character, he also had to make him bigger and more important than what he was in death.
"Nico tapped his sword on the ground. A tiny mound of animal bones erupted from the dirt. They knit themselves together into a skeletal field mouse and scampered. "I was sorry to hear about Beckendorf." A lump formed in my throat. "How did you" "I talk his ghost." "Oh... right. I'd never get used to the fact that this twelve year old kid spent more time talking with the dead than living. "Did he say anything?" "He doesn't blame you." "He figured you'd be beating yourself up, and he said you shouldn't" (p. 85)
Again I say, Really!, Because a white hero should never feel quilt, so even in death Beckendorf finds a way to get a message to Percy's to ease his conscious.
I didn't have a problem with Beckerdorf dying. The half bloods are raged in a war throughout the entire book, so characters will die. Did I want him to live? Yes. Did I think he would? No 1) He's African American, 2) he's a secondary character the author developed so the readers will feel his loss more. So I was perfectly fine with Beckendorf dying in battle and I expected it. But, this sacrificial death was uncalled for and not appreciated. I did a few engine searches with key words but nothing popped up about how and why Beckendorf died. It got me to thinking maybe I am being oversensitive (previous word surrounded by air quotes) but than I thought to myself, no. I see what I see because of who I am and I will not apologize or dismiss my feelings.