11 year-old Gregor is at home minding the baby – 2 year-old “Boots” – and his Grandma, since it’s summer in New York City, his Mom is at work, and his dad disappeared suddenly two years, seven months and a specified number of days ago.  A neighbour stops by to look after Grandma, so Gregor takes Boots down to the basement to do the laundry.  So starts a terrifying journey to the Underland.

After falling for what seems like forever, Gregor manages to find his way to the city of the human (sort of) Underlanders, after encountering the gigantic cockroach inhabitants on his way.  Fortunately he has not yet encountered the six-foot rats, although with his Overlander aroma, it’s only a matter of time before they smell him out.  It’s a hostile world, but Boots manages to charm everyone, partly because she is afraid of no-one, and makes friends left, right and centre.  So when Gregor turns out to be the warrior indicated in an ancient prophecy, Boots helps to enlist the aid of other Underlanders simply through being her own innocent self.

This is a great story, rightly garnering several awards and mentions.  The story is well-paced, with parts of the dangerous quest divided into manageable chunks, although I’m not entirely sure of its suitability for bed-time reading.  The description of the fights and battles are realistic, if short.  Maybe fights with fantasy animals are ok.  I know I had plenty of imaginary animal friends when I was a tween, just not vicious, smelly rats (not my opinion, just as depicted in the book).

I thought it a shame that a traditionally published book should let through odd typo and oddities like “making up the word questers to describe the group”.  What’s wrong with questors, which is a perfectly good word in the dictionary to describe people on a quest?  I certainly knew it when I was twelve. Am I being nerdish?  Well, I do turn to my dictionary regularly to make sure I’m using a word properly these days.

This is just the first of five Gregor the Overlander books.  The next prophecy was hinted at in the last chapters.  I’m not sure I’m going to read it, but I’m glad I read the first in the series – it was highly enjoyable and I recommend it to everyone not too afraid of the dark.

Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Collins

I bought the Scholastic paperback from Waterstones, Norwich with the book token I got last year.

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Book Review|Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
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