The City of Ember: Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…
But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them? – Goodreads
The City of Ember Review
The cover on The City of Ember drew me in. I’d first heard about the book via a conversation on Twitter, and when I looked it up on Goodreads, I was intrigued. Sometimes the simplest covers are the best ones. It’s aimed at the 11-13 age range, which is a bit younger than the dystopians I’ve read before. I think that is part of what made it so good. There’s a decided lack of hormones present to screw the whole thing off course into some ridiculous love triangle. Its all about saving the city, even if some in the city don’t want to be saved.
Of course, saving the city isn’t going to go off without a hitch. Lina and Doon do their best, but they’re just tweens, and they’re up against almost impossible odds. I thought Jeanne DuPrau did a great job of putting the two characters through their paces. The City of Ember was very tightly written and immediately engrossing. Even though you knew that everything was going to work out in the end, you could still get invested in it. I appreciated that they had adults they could actually ask for help, and that they could trust. So often it seems like the adults in these books are either non-existent, non-believing, or toe-rags. To see some of them doing good for goodness sake was heart-warming and refreshing.
Also, the way the characters were written is wonderful. With a few well-chosen words, DuPrau impresses the characters images deeply onto your mind’s eye. Lina in her red coat running through the town is a picture exquisite in it’s simplicity. It’s as memorable as the young girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List. I can’t believe I hadn’t even heard of this book until recently. It’s gorgeously written in a way that will appeal to kids and adults. It’s got enough of a mystery to it to engage younger reader’s minds, and give them a sense of satisfaction when they figure out the clues.
Now, the book isn’t perfect, though I’ll admit I didn’t immediately see all the problems. It took some distance from it before I was like “Wait, whaaat?” One of the things that did strike me whilst reading it was that the townspeople seemed very complacent. Too complacent, considering (as far as we know) there wasn’t happy pills in the water or something like that. Its like they all get paralyzed at the very thought of change. Like the idea of doing something different, of trying to find a way to make things better, is completely beyond them. Really, the town just serves as a reason for the kids to have their adventure. But you know what? I’m okay with that.
This is a kids book. There’s going to be flaws adults see. Parts that are unrealistic. But all that matters, really, is that kids can read and enjoy this book. Maybe this book is the one that introduces them to the love of reading. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be an engaging, imagination unleashing read. The City of Ember succeeds in all the important areas, even if it trips over itself in a few other areas.