Gregor the Overlander (Book One of the Underland Chronicles)
By Suzanne Collins
In all the frenzy surrounding the long-anticipated release of Suzanne Collins' masterpiece, The Hunter Games in movie form, I decided to catch up on some of Collins’ other works. Students have been recommending the Underland Chronicles to me for years, Collins’ earlier series; and so I finally picked up book one, and I was not disappointed!
After his father disappears, Gregor is the man of his house despite his own pain; and, he takes the job seriously. That’s why when Gregor’s baby sister, Boots, falls down a mysterious vent in their New York City apartment, Gregor jumps in to rescue her. He is shocked to find that he and his sister have entered a portal to the Underland—a place where bats bond with humans, spiders go on quests, cockroaches talk, and rats are the super-sized kind. Oh, and did I mention? These critters all talk! Even though the environment is completely foreign, Collins’ descriptions bring the Underworld and its creatures to life. The tale is a classic quest; Gregor’s coming has been foretold to the human population of the Underworld, a strange, noble and pale people who are unaccustomed to visitors. These people are on the brink of a great war with the vicious, bloodthirsty rats. Like most of us would, Gregor has insecurities about being only eleven and being expected to embark on a journey into the unknown, but he harnesses his fear and agrees to accompany the humans of the Underworld in the hopes of perhaps finding his father and returning back to his mother in New York. His character is heroic, tender, and very protective of his sister Boots--readers will love him. And, it's hard not to adore Boots, Gregor's unexptected companion who provides humor and inspiration for the questors. The reader roots for Gregor and his entourage as the group faces challenge after challenge, all leading up to the moment when Gregor must face his worst fear—and the possibility that he may not survive the quest alive. The concluding twist is totally unexpected, and the teaser at the end will make younger readers anxious to read book two in the series, The Prophecy of Bane.