BOOK REVIEW: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

“The main thing is to pay attention. Pay close attention to everything, notice what no one else notices. Then you’ll know what no one else knows, and that’s always useful.”

I was substitute teaching in a fifth grade classroom earlier this year when I spotted a copy of Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember on every student's desk. Curiosity captured, I looked it up online once I got home, and downloaded a copy immediately to my Kindle. A dystopian story that feels all-too-possible-of-turning-reality given the current state of the nation, this is one bite sized story {I say this because I devoured it in a very short period of time} that lays the groundwork for a saga bursting with espionage and excitement, rumors and lies, and a journey to change the world forever as we know it.

Two hundred years ago, the city of Ember was constructed by builders to house the last of the human race after an unshared catastrophe wiped out the rest of the world - or so that is what Ember residents have been told. An underground, poverty-stricken locale that has captured the last of the light in the world, Ember is the saving grace of society; but as the great lamps that light the city begin to flicker, inhabitants start to worry - after all, should the great lamps fail to stay alight, the world is cast into darkness forever. But not all have lost hope.

Twelve-year-old Lina Mayfleet and her casual acquaintance/friend, Doon Harrow, have finally completed their schooling, and have reached the stage in their lives where they are assigned jobs. Neither, however, is content with the job that they received on Assignment Day. Lina has always longed to be a Messenger, but was assigned the boring task of Pipeworks Laborer; and Doon, fascinated with the innerworkings of Ember and determined to solve Ember's flickering lights problem, hopes nothing more than to be a Pipeworks Laborer, but draws the dreaded Messenger. Saddened by the luck of the draw, Lina and Doon trade jobs, so each has the assignment they desired, which sparks an unlikely friendship and exchanging of information.

Lina, as Messenger, spends her days racing across Ember, exchanging messages between recipients of both menial and extraordinary importance; while Doon spends his days in the underbelly of Ember, exploring secret caverns, and mysteries within. It is through their respective positions that they begin to uncover secrets about the only home they've ever known. Secrets about shortages and rations, the possibility of life beyond Ember, and the stealthy surplus and hoarding of goods by Ember's impassioned Mayor Cole. When Mayor Cole learns of Lina and Doon's knowledge, and their desire to expose him, the greedy politician begins a campaign to discredit the two, and imprison them. Now, they are forced to flee into the darkness to, hopefully, save themselves and the people of Ember from eternal darkness.

Y'all, I have said it once and I will say it again: it is hard reading dystopian novels in today's climate because so many things mirror reality; but I digress...they are engrossing. In comparison to series such as The Hunger Games or Divergent, The City of Ember is definitely tame in regards to violence; but this is Book One in a quartet, so that could change. This is a book that truly makes you question the excess of society, and teaches you to appreciate what you have - or, at least, that was my take-away. I can't say that I had strong feelings either way for Lina or Doon; however, again, it is book one, so those may develop over time. That said, I never warmed up to Katniss Everdeen or Peeta Mellark, so no guarantees. What I can guarantee, is that I will be reading Book Two, The People of Sparks, because I am truly itching to find out what lies beyond Ember.

If you're new to dystopians, this is a good introduction, as, compared to other dystopian releases in recent years, it's light and quickly read. If you're a seasoned dystopian reader, you may appreciate the slower pace and strong buildup to The People of Sparks. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you should be able to find something, or someone, to root for!

Star Rating: ***1/2



ellie said...

It is popular at the library. So I guess parents approve, too. Thanks for the great review!

The Book Group said...

Awesome to read your review. I have been interested in this series.

Caitlin'nMegan said...

The bookcover has caught my eye. Interesting series. I love the characters names!

Better Left Unsaid said...

Wonderful review! Glad to know about this one!

Hollyn'Stevie said...

I may have to give it a try! Thanks!

Cherry Blossoms said...

Very intriguing! They seem like a good team.

R's Rue said...

Thank you so much for sharing.

Ananka said...

Sounds good :-D

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