Gregor and the Code of Claw
Author: Suzanne Collins
Length: 412 pages
Series or Stand-Alone: last book in a 5-book series
Content appropriate for: grades 4-7
3 adjectives that describe this book: exciting, dangerous, intense
In typical Suzanne Collins fashion, the realistic brutality of war was intermingled with moments of shocking revelation and quiet reflection. Much of the book has Gregor and his friends waiting for things to happen. Though this is quite a realistic look at war, it also made the plot drag at times. At first I was disappointed by the lack of epic battle scenes (there are about three), but eventually I developed a real appreciation for the evolving interactions between characters and species. Collins avoided the temptation to go out with a bang and focused on really taking her characters deeper and expanding the imagined world more fully. These are writing elements she is especially good at.
As she does in her more famous series, Hunger Games, Collins kills off a beloved character. Though this is terribly sad (tears were shed), it's a great plot device that makes character risks more palpable. Also, like Hunger Games, this final book has a somewhat unresolved ending that left me unfulfilled. Having completed both series, I wonder if writing the end is a weak spot for Collins. In both series, the endings conclude the action well-enough, but they leave me disappointed. Oh well. On the whole, I think the Gregor series is stronger than the Hunger Games trilogy.
Overall, I'd give this book 4 stars, but the series gets 5 stars as a whole. The Underland Chronicles has all of the elements that grab students - those exemplified in the Percy Jackson series. But I think Collins does a better job of making her series more engaging, complex, and meaningful. I already have a slew of students vying to read them!