Synopsis: Gregor is an ordinary kid living in New York City with his mom and his two younger sisters, whom he has been taking care of for the last couple of years ever since his dad disappeared. Then, one day when Gregor is doing the laundry, he follows his sister down a ventilation shaft and ends up in a dark but bustling metropolis beneath his home. Turns out, he and his sister are not the first Overlanders to come to the Underland – his dad fell down to the Underland as well. With the help of the Underlanders, Gregor decides to go on a mission to rescue his dad and bring him back to the surface.
Why I picked it up: Another title recommended to me by my library school classmates, I found a copy on sale at Target and couldn’t resist.
Why I finished it: Fantasy is such a broad category of literature that you can really do most anything you want, which is what I love most about the genre. Collins capitalizes on its versatility by creating a world that is both fantastical and yet, highly plausible. It could be that there is an entire other land beneath our feet populated with larger than life rodents, bugs, and of course, humans. It’s very reminiscent of DuPrau’s City of Ember, except that this story is a little more action packed. It begins with an ordinary boy trying to look out for his family after his dad has mysteriously disappeared, and he won’t even afford himself the luxury of thinking about what he will do when he sees his father again because Gregor is an idealist. He needs to be able to focus on the here and now, not about what could happen. The Underlanders on the other hand, need to be able to look a few steps ahead, especially since they’re trying to keep peace with a kingdom of rats with which they share the Underland. The characters are likeable, but Gregor is the only one that really gets a lot of fleshing out; his Underland companions and even his family are somewhat two-dimensional, and there are a few characters that don’t even occupy enough space on the page to allow the reader to get to know them. Despite this, Collins has woven together an engaging tale of unlikely heroism (is there any other kind?) that is well-paced and connects with the reader on a personal level.
Other related materials: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (The Underland Chronicles, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins; Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (The Underland Chronicles, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins; Gregor and the Marks of Secret (The Underland Chronicles, Book 4) by Suzanne Collins; Gregor and the Code of Claw (The Underland Chronicles, Book 5) by Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff; Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 by Deborah Hopkinson; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan; Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi; Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker; Pie by Sarah Weeks; Waiting for the Magic by Patricia McLachlan, illustrated by Amy June Bates; The Books of Ember books by Jeanne DuPrau; Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrated by Greg Call; Holes by Louis Sachar