Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The City of Ember

Title:               The City of Ember
Category:      Science Fiction
Grade:            4-8
Author:          Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher:       Random House
:              New York
Date:               2003
Pages:             270
Assignment Day has come to the City of Ember, a forgotten world buried deep within the earth.  Lina and Doon, both twelve, have definite ideas of the jobs they want, but Lina is assigned to labor in the pipes, keeping the water supply running far below the city itself.  Doon is given the job of messenger, running errands through the city streets.  Doon, however, is desperate to get Lina’s job because the generator that powers Ember lies below.  Supplies, placed in the city by the Builders centuries before, are finally beginning to run out, and the city lights are becoming more and more unstable.  Unless someone can discover a solution, soon the city will no longer be habitable, and the people will die or be forced to attempt to journey through the endless dark surrounding the city.  Then Lina finds a strange and ancient document that seems to hold the key, but it will take all their skill to unravel the mystery.  Even then, there is no guarantee that anyone will believe them or that anyone can make it out of Ember and live.
Another dystopian novel, DuPrau nevertheless authors her debut with style and charm, successfully creating a believable world lost in the Earth’s crust.  Lina and Doon are well characterized, although they are young enough to put off some older readers perhaps – I had difficulty believing they accomplished this story at the tender age of twelve.  This story reminded me of Myst, done about a decade before, particularly with the journals and documents readers can attempt to solve right along with the protagonists in the story; it would translate readily into a video adventure game.  DuPrau’s writing is easily read, and preteens will appreciate the independence the children of Ember gained at a very young age.  An entertaining read that ends with a cliffhanger, spurring fans to the library for the next installment.


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