Thursday, June 20, 2013

Throwback Thursday - "Gregor the Overlander" by Suzanne Collins

**Originally Posted on cj's bookshelf on April 15, 2011**

Title: Gregor the Overlander
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of Publication: August 2004
Reading Level: 7th grade and up

Synopsis: (from Books in Print) -

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.

My Review:

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.

(6/20/2013 Note - Some extraneous information and formatting has been edited out for the "Throwback Thursday" version of this review)

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