I loved everything about this middle-grade children's book. It is actually Suzanne Collins' very first novel, pre-Hunger Games. It shares a lot with her more famous trilogy. Fast pacing. An ordinary kid forced by extraordinary circumstances into becoming a leader, a hero. Good good guys and bad bad guys. I already mentioned fast pacing. Gregor, an eleven year old boy and his two year old sister Boots get sucked from the laundry room in their NYC apt building into The Underland. The Underland has regular-ish humans, along with giant bats, roaches, rats, and spiders. According to an Underland prophecy, Gregor is the one who will lead them in their battle against the rats. Gregor's only goal is to retrieve his father, who fell down the hole two plus years ago and is now the rats' prisoner. Adventure ensues.
There are lots of great characters in the story. The wise elders. The snooty queen-in-training. The giant cockroaches, Tick and Temp. Yes, wonderful, loyal, sweet cockroaches. The giant rat Ripred. is he a spy, a traitor, should they trust him, do they have any choice? I'll never tell.Of course there's Gregor, who learns the obligatory lessons about himself and the world around him. But best of all is Boots. She greets everything in her life with joy. She has no fear. No prejudices. She treats everyone equally, teaching just about everyone a thing or two. Bravo Boots.
I'm not sure why I didn't know about this middle-grade series. I loved The Hunger Games. Maybe because the target audience was a little younger there was less hype. All those teen girls who loved The Hunger Games probably think they're a little too old to enjoy this book. It's too bad. I think both boys and girls would love this adrenaline-filled story. Less mushy stuff than Hunger Games, just a straight out quest. It doesn't get any cooler.