Gregor the Overlander - Suzanne  Collins

So, my workplace and a few other firms are a part of this program where we got to a local elementary school to read to kids. I was paired up with a fifth grader who loved to read as much as I did. She blew through Breadcrumbs, which was amazing, and we had just started on Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1) when school was dismissed for summer vacation.

Me being my usual ADHD self, I left this book unread for months and months while I pursued other books.

Now, after reading the entire Underland Chronicles in three days, I am so glad I gave this a shot.

Plot Summary

Gregor is an eleven year old who lives with his mom, grandma, and younger sisters in New York City. His dad disappeared without a word two years ago, and his mom has been struggling to keep the family together since. One day, Gregor and his sister Boots are sucked down a grate in their laundry room, and find themselves in the Underland, a subterranean world populated by white-haired, violet-eyed humans, and oversized cockroaches, spiders, bats and rats. Though all Gregor wants is to go home, he finds himself embroiled in a brewing war between the humans and rats, and perhaps a chance to find his father.

My Reactions

The Underland was interesting, to say the least. I wasn’t too convinced by this subterranean world until about two books in. Maybe it’s because I hatehatehatehatehate rodents and vermin, which is probably not the best attitude to take when living in New York City. Someone once told me about a sighting of a three-foot rat in Brooklyn, and my spidey senses were tingling whenever I entered a subway station for weeks after.

(BTW, the antagonists are six-foot tall rats. With their long, ridged tails and sharp teeth.)

Kind of like this:

Some parts of the book, like the quest and resolution of the prophecy were quite predictable. But like in The Hunger Games has a way of brushing up against the brittleness of the real world without being melodramatic.

What remains with me the most was not the questing or the Underland, but Gregor. After his father disappeared, Gregor continually makes sacrifices in the face of hard financial times. Here is an eleven year old who voluntarily gives up summer camp to take care of his baby sister Boots because his mom works nonstop to feed the family. My heart aches for the little guy, who is forced to grow up much too quickly so that the rest of his siblings can enjoy their youths. Not sure how well a fifth grader or even adult could relate--I suppose it depends on the person--but as the oldest in my family, I certainly could.

Gregory continues to carry the heavy weight of responsibility with him to the Underland as he takes care of Boots, and that bit of realness threading through the story kept me interested and sympathetic until the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this first book, and the following books are equally (if not more) fun to read. If you thought The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) was a feat in YA lit, Gregor the Overlander is definitely up there in the kid lit world. Both are highly readable for both the younger folk and the adulty folk.

3.5 STARS AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for younger readers.