Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Eleven year old Gregor is trying to get by one day at a time, ever since his father disappeared two years ago it has fallen on his shoulders to help his mother take care of his two sisters and grandmother. He isn't bitter about the added responsibility, but he does take his job very seriously when looking over two year old sister Boots. This is especially true when he and Boots are pulled through the laundry grate into a mysterious world called the Underland. There are massive bugs, bats, and rats, and a curious population of people that are forced to prepare for war because of Gregor's desire to get home. Now Gregor must deal with keeping his sister safe, getting the two of them home, possibly saving his father, and being the prophesied Overlander that will save Underland from being overtaken by the vicious rats. Just a normal day in the life of an eleven year old, right?

I listened to this one audiobook, it had a rather slow start. I also got extremely annoyed by the reader. He didn't have a strong ability to stick with a voice for a character. They all ended up being either his normal voice or kind of a high pitched misty sort of voice that was supposed to represent bats, cockroaches, and almost all girls. He also didn't have a great sense of timing or inflection. It made it really difficult to get into the book and care for the characters. I even found the two year old to be obnoxious. But I'm assuming that a lot of this is more based off a dislike of the reader's interpretation of the book rather than the book itself. Or at least a majority of it.

Suzanne Collins is also the author of the Hunger Games series, you knew you recognized her name didn't you? You can totally see how this book would eventually lead her to create the world and plot of the young adult series. This is a dark book, it has a lot of serious themes that she deals rather well with given this is a middle-grade book. The action was gritty and violent, just bordering on too much for someone below the age of eleven or twelve. I loved the character of Ripred, so jaded and sarcastic. He was a much needed voice of reason, even when it was overly blunt. I also got rather attached to the cockroaches, even though the visual of six foot long cockroaches made me want to puke in my car. One thing I love about Suzanne Collins is the fact that her imagery is so vivid, you can always picture the setting clearly. At least I can. I'm always transported by her words, even when I'd rather not be like when the group of heroes is located in a nest of spiders. Gross.

Here are the detractors. I got rather annoyed by Gregor's inability to stop and think things through... but let's be honest he's an eleven year old with an abandonment complex and more responsibilities than most adults. The book was intensely slow at the beginning, Lots and lots of exposition that I didn't want at the time, and still think could've been tightened up and made more concise. But again, I have to make the excuse that she is setting up a world for a five book series so lots and lots of details are needed?

I enjoyed this for the most part. I'm hoping to read the next one soon and enjoy it more without the bad reader. We'll see how it goes. What I think is more interesting is the fact that you can see the progression from this middle-grade series to the young adult series and how Suzanne Collins has developed as a writer.

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