BFTA Review: Jeanne DuPrau – The City of Ember

DuPrau_Jeanne-CityOfEmber

Title: The City of Ember
Series: First Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Yearling
Rating: 3/5

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.com)

I really like books that are contained in their own worlds. I also really like having that map at the beginning, because it gives me an idea of how far Lina has to run in the story. And boy, does she. By the end of this book you can imagine Lina running everywhere. I don’t think she walks anywhere.
The only real issue I had was that the book seems to be written for a younger audience than its marketed for. The sentences are short and simple. However, I also think it’s written to convey how Lina and Doon think. The children are rushed through school, and at the age of 12, they’re tossed out in the work force. Not to mention the lack of societal intelligence: after all, as we see when Doon visits the library, a book about sayings and words from the past indicates no one knows what a “boat” is.
Lina is your average, every-day girl going out into the work force. She draws a job she doesn’t want, but doesn’t say anything. Doon, on the other hand, verbally objects to his job. Immediately, we are shown that the two main characters are opposites. Just how opposite remains to be seen, but we are also quickly treated to the history between Lina and Doon, and we know they are not friends at all. The plot goes back and forth between the two and doesn’t really start moving until Lina finds a message in a closet. This happens in chapter 7, about 100 pages into the book. It’s a kind of slow start, but when it picks up, it’s like a snowball rolling downhill.
Other than darkness, we have a few recurring themes running through the book. One of them is the idea of honesty and greed. I tie them together because, at least in this book, they seem to go hand-in-hand. Lina runs into her friend, Lizzie, while Lizzie is toting a huge bag of groceries home. Lina discovers that Lizzie has a bunch of foods that were believed to be depleated. Lizzie claims at first that she found them on a shelf, tucked away in the back. She later tells Lina that her boyfriend found them in the store rooms. Lina, ever the voice of fairness, says this isn’t fair–everyone should have a chance at those items. Later, we find out the mayor is also hoarding things that are running out, including light bulbs.
Like I said, I really liked the book. I just couldn’t work past the writing style, but I think that’s a personal issue and not something wrong with the book.

Originally posted September 29, 2010

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