Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins

I realize that this is not so much a book review as a series review. I read all five volumes of this series in three days. It's safe to say I enjoyed it immensely.

Gregor is an 11-year-old who falls into a New York kid's version of Wonderland. Instead of talking rabbits, caterpillars, and cards, he finds himself in a world populated by six-foot tall talking rats, bats big enough to ride on, and enormous cockroaches, as well as a race of humans with translucent white skin and violet eyes. The Underland is on the verge of war, and according to the Underlanders' prophecies, Gregor is the warrior who will save them all.

Each book follows a formula: Gregor and his sister Boots (and sometimes one or two other members of their family) go to the Underland, Gregor finds out about a prophesy concerning him, he goes on an adventure, the prophesy is unraveled, and Gregor and Boots go back home.

Within this format, the books explore what it means to belong somewhere, when (and if) war and violence are legitimate, and whether you can have any power over your own life when someone else is telling you what you have to do (even when the person telling you is doing so through a centuries-old prophesy). Collins does not hesitate to kill her characters when it's necessary, which makes the story more believable, and I think that death and grief are important things for children to read about. This series is full of darkness and pain, but also humor, love, and excitement. I also loved Luxa, the princess of the human Underlanders. She's young, but she's a strong-minded warrior, and I've always been a fan of strong female characters.

This series, with its prophesies and wonderful young characters, was a really fun read. Gregor's 2-year-old sister, Boots, comes with him on all of his adventures, and she brings an element of lightheartedness to the books, while grounding Gregor in reality. He can't get too lost in being a hero when he needs to change his baby sister's diaper.

I would highly recommend these books to readers who thought Wonderland wasn't gritty enough, and readers who like exciting adventure stories.

Rating: 4 stars

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