"Beyond Ember, the darkness goes on forever in all directions."
It's the 241st year since the founding of the city of Ember—the lone lighted city in a world of darkness. Today is Assignment Day, and twelve-year old Lina Mayfleet hopes to be assigned the job of Messenger. She is disappointed when instead she draws the menial job of Pipeworks Laborer.
Her classmate Doon Harrow, on the other hand, does draw Messenger, and immediately asks to swap with Lina. He wants the job of Pipeworks Laborer, for it takes him close to the great generator that powers the city of Ember—a generator as old as the city itself, and one that, like the city, is dying. Doon has ideas about how to fix the generator, and he must hurry, for the lights keep flickering in Ember, and soon they may go out forever.
Lina, however, cannot shake her dreams of another city, a city far away from Ember, a city of light. She constantly draws pictures of this city, filling in the sky with blue, which she knows is silly because the sky is really black. But she is certain that there must be a way to leave Ember. When she finds a message from the Builders, it is up to her and Doon to decipher the instructions and find the way out of Ember before the darkness swallows it up.
As its name suggests, the city is the lone smoldering ember of human society in the ashes of a dystopian world. Long ago the Builders created Ember to preserve a remnant of humanity against a coming great disaster. What this disaster was, we aren't told. But the simplicity of the dystopian background works well along side the nearly allegorical story.
One of the brilliant aspects of Jeanne DuPrau's book is how she's able to instill a longing and gratitude in you for those things you take for granted.The chapter titled A World of Light describes Lina and Doon's reaction to their very first sunrise, and it is full of stunning descriptions of what grass and trees and hills and mountains look like to a person who is only seeing them for the first time. It's a literal (and beautiful) picture of what it looks like when the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
And yet the darkness that Lina and Doon encounter is not just outside of their city, but in their own hearts as well. They and the people around them struggle with pride and selfishness, with greed and fear. But Lina and Doon love their city, and it's their love that ends up saving it. They enter into the light and invite their fellow citizens to join them. More than just a dystopian story, City of Ember is full of enough adventure and mystery to entertain and intrigue younger readers, but will also leave older readers with plenty to think about.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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