The City of Ember
Random 2003 270 pgs
Lina and Doon have lived in the City of Ember their whole lives. Lately things have been going downhill. The once abundant storerooms are emptying and store shelves no longer contain many choices or products. Worse of all, the electric lights that the city depends on to see have been on the fritz and the city is experiencing temporary black-outs. As Lina and Doon graduate from school at age twelve and start their adult occupations they begin to question their way of life and wonder if there is life outside of Ember. Lina finds a mysterious box containing a letter that looks important. Unfortunately, Lina's baby sister gets to the note first and huge chunks are missing. By deciphering what is left in the note, Lina and Doom are able to ascertain that it is instructions for leaving the city. Meanwhile, they discover that the mayor is selfishly hoarding what is left of Ember's precious commodities and they attempt to expose him. The Mayor calls for Lina and Doon's arrest, so the two adventurers must grab what they can, along with Lina's baby sister, and try to escape the city.
Although not a new book, City of Ember is a great choice to give to kids looking for currently in demand dystopian fiction, but not quite ready for Hunger Game or Divergent. The underground world is kind of creepy and cool. DuPrau let us in on the secret early that Ember is underground and it gives us a pleased leg-up when Doon and Lina finally figure it out by the end. Lina and Doon are both smart, resourceful and brave. They will inspire young people to question the world around them and to venture out of their comfort zone. The adults are for the most part ineffectual and flawed, leaving the saving of the civilization to a couple of twelve-year-olds with minimal supervision. The plot moves quickly, the setting is well developed and atmospheric, and the story takes many twist and turns. The mysterious instructions with missing words adds a mystery element to the story, further creating interest. Having both a male and female main character allows for the book to be accessible to both sexes. A great sci-fi choice for those who don't like sci-fi, The City of Ember is a well written child-friendly adventurous story to be devoured by all. Most of all, it makes us appreciate sunshine and electricity and think ahead to the future of our planet.