After surviving a bizarre fall through a gateway to the Underland--conveniently located in the laundry room of their NYC apartment building--eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister Boots discover a world filled with giant talking cockroaches, rats, spiders, and bats. The humans of this formidable world take them in as "guests," but, as Gregor astutely observes, "Guests could leave it they wanted to" (p. 54). Not knowing whom to trust, Gregor flees the palace with Boots, inadvertently igniting the prophesied war between the humans and rats.
Highlighting Gregor's role as the consistently responsible older brother, Collins creates a heroic character for young adult readers even before revealing that Gregor is about to fulfill his destiny as "an Overland Warrior, a Son of the Sun" (p. 109). Yes, there is violence, but not simply for the sake of being violent; Collins's use of violence is appropriate to her story.
Gregor is a great introduction for readers who are new to the fantasy genre. The main characters are human, and are well-grounded in reality--New York City, doing laundry, babysitting, summer camp. Still, there is enough of the fantastic--giant talking animals, gateways into another world, prophecies--to stimulate the imagination and introduce newcomers to fantasy without being overwhelming.
Massachusetts Children's Book Award Honor Book, 2006
Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 2006
NAIBA Book of the Year Award, 2004
Reviewed by: Mechele R. Dillard