Apr. 15th, 2011

Title:  Gregor the Overlander

Author: Suzanne Collins

ISBN: 9780439648131

Publisher:  Scholastic

Date of Publication:  August 2004

Reading Level: 7th grade and up


Books in Print:

JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / General




My additions:

Family Relationships

Death and Dying

Sibling Relationships


Synopsis:  (from Books in Print)

When Gregor falls through a grate in his apartment building, he's hurtled into the dark Underland, a world that is on the brink of war. But his arrival is no accident--a prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future.
When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.
When eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats--but the fragile peace is about to fall apart. Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland's uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. Little does he know his quest will change him and the Underland forever. Rich in suspense and brimming with adventure, Suzanne Collin's debut marked a thrilling new talent, and introduced a character no young reader will ever forget.

Awards: (from Books in Print) –

Beehive Children's Fictional Book Award (NOMINATED) 2005

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2005

Nutmeg Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Sunshine State Young Reader's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Sasquatch Reading Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Great Stone Face Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2005

Massachusetts Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Garden State Children's Book Awards (NOMINATED) 2006

Bluebonnet Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Rhode Island Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Young Reader's Choice Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Virginia Reader's Choice Awards (NOMINATED) 2006

Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (WON) 2006

Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007

Young Hoosier Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007

William Allen White Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Flicker Tale Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007

Sequoyah Book Award (NOMINATED) 2006

Nene Award (NOMINATED) 2007

Maud Hart Lovelace Award (NOMINATED) 2007

Volunteer State Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007

SCASL Book Award (South Carolina) (NOMINATED) 2007

Comments: This was a good enough book – typical kiddie-fantasy-quest fare.  It’s the first of a larger series that seems to follow the formula set forth in books like “Fablehaven” (or maybe “Fablehaven” copies “Gregor"?)  Basically, Gregor and his two-year-old sister, Boots, wind up falling down below the streets of New York into the Underland where humans live alongside gigantic cockroaches, bats, spiders and rats and they have done so for years.  Oh – and Gregor’s father mysteriously disappeared two years ago and Gregor has to be the “Man of the House.”  When Gregor and Boots find themselves in the Underland, Gregor is named as a great warrior put forth in a prophecy to fight off the rats that threaten the unsteady peace in the Underland.

I actually lost interest partway through the book.  This is another book I might not have finished if I wasn’t planning on writing a review of it.  The plot is so formulaic and trite – just the names and places change.  Eleven-year-old Gregor could be any number of pre-teen hero in any sort of young adult adventure novel – Percy Jackson, Kendra and Seth from “Fablehaven,” Meggie from “Inkheart,” Jared, Mallory and Simon from “The Spiderwick Chronicles.”  Those are the ones that I thought of initially, but I’m sure there are others.  The pre-teen fantasy/adventure genre has been around for a long time and the formula’s hardly changed much.  The main difference is probably that Collins includes Gregor’s little sister in the story.  Boots is easily the best character here.  She is unafraid of the giant creatures and even befriends two of the cockroaches (they call her their “princess”).  I think she saves this story from being a completely mechanical plot.  In fact, I would much rather have had the story told from Boots’ point of view than Gregor’s.

Having read “The Hunger Games ,” I sort of expected more from Suzanne Collins.  I do understand that this was her first foray into YA literature, so this could be a case of an author’s talent getting better with time.  Or maybe I just expect more from the books I take the time to select and read.

Up Next: “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted

On Deck: "Pretties" by Scott Westerfield, "The Truth About Forever" by Sarah Dessen



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