Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Get Away Reads: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Every summer we like to do something special. This year our bloggers will be giving you their picks for their favorite books to bring on a vacation. Whether you're heading out on a long car trip or catching a flight to paradise, we have the books to put in your carry-on.

Today our new librarian (who you can find at Central and Cherrydale Branch Library), Jennifer S., shares her pick for a can't travel without pick:

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Are you the kind of person who painstakingly agonizes more about what books to pack along with you during a trip than clothes or other necessities?  I know I definitely am!  I guess it has something to do with the fact that books can often take up a precious amount of space in increasingly-tiny pieces of luggage, or that you may have to literally lug around something that is too boring to capture your attention while on a tedious flight or relaxing on the beach.  A few years ago I dealt with this very dilemma when packing for a week-long trip to Oahu, Hawaii.  I hemmed and hawed over a big stack of potential books to pack in my suitcase, finally settling on four different titles to bring along with me.  The only books that managed to engross me completely (in the gorgeous island setting of Hawaii, no less) were those in The Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins.  Everyone is familiar with Collins’ series The Hunger Games, a dystopic trilogy, but The Underland Chronicles, an epic five book fantasy series that was published five years before her most famous work, is deserving of just as much attention and praise.

In the first book of The Underland Chronicles, Gregor the Overlander, we are introduced to the titular character Gregor, an eleven year old New Yorker dealing with the oppressive summer heat and a growing list of responsibilities.  You see, Gregor’s father mysteriously vanished two years and seven months ago, so Gregor’s mother and grandmother have relied on him to make personal sacrifices in order to help keep their household going.  Normally, Gregor would have been away at summer camp, but given his new circumstances, that would leave no one around to take care of his baby sister, Boots.  Instead, Gregor concedes to letting his other sister, Lizzie, go off to camp while he hangs out in their stuffy apartment during the day with his grandmother and Boots.  Everything takes a fantastical turn when one day, while doing laundry in his apartment building’s basement along with Boots, Gregor falls into an air duct behind one of the machines while investigating a strange noise.  What Gregor soon discovers, much like Alice when she fell down the rabbit-hole, is a thriving world hidden far below the streets of New York City called the Underland.

Darkness permeates every nook and cranny in the Underland, and Gregor and Boots soon encounter a whole cast of strange people and creatures.  But what Gregor doesn’t know is that the people of the Underland have been awaiting a special Overlander to fulfill a prophecy that says a special warrior will lead a quest against the antagonistic gnawers (rats).  Though Gregor doesn’t envision himself as the prophesied warrior, he soon embarks on a treacherous journey across the uncharted darkness of the Underland on a mission to rescue his father, who is rumored to be held hostage by the hostile rat King Gorger.  Is Gregor ready to risk everything, and partner with a motley crew of Underlanders and creatures - including giant fliers (bats), crawlers (cockroaches), spinners (spiders), and gnawers - in order to save his dad and make it back home?

I know how hard it can be to choose the best book to bring with you on a trip - but if you are like me, finding a book with relatable characters, a mysterious world, epic battles, and a thrilling adventure is just as exciting as embarking on a new journey yourself.  I enjoyed Gregor the Overlander so much when I brought it with me to Hawaii that during my trip I went out and bought the rest of the books in the series to read during the rest of my vacation.  Don’t worry though, all of the books in The Underland Chronicles are available in paperback, so you can pack a few of them away with you on your next adventure!

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