Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Reviewed August 16, 2003.
Random House, New York, 2003.  270 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF DUP).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #2, Young Adult and Children's Science Fiction

In the prologue of The City of Ember, we’re told that the builders of the city left instructions for the inhabitants to leave the city two hundred years later.  They put the instructions in a locked box that will automatically open when the time is right.  Unfortunately, the box is lost.

As the main part of the book opens, we meet two twelve-year-olds, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow.  Lina and Doon have finished school and are being assigned their new jobs.  Their city is run by a giant underground generator, and supplies come from huge storerooms.  Unfortunately, supplies are beginning to run out.  Black-outs are happening with more and more frequency.  When that happens, there is absolute blackness.  Electric light is the only thing they know, but no one understands how the generator works.

Here’s a gripping novel about escaping from a doomed city.  When Lina’s old grandmother starts raving and looking for something that was lost, the reader knows what she’s seeking and how important it is.  However, things end up being much more complicated than simply finding the instructions and following them.

This book reminded me of The Wind Singer, by William Nicholson.  Both books even included a toddler sister to worry about saving.  The Wind Singer was fantasy, and included some bizarre obstacles to their escape (one of which was an underground civilization).  The City of Ember is science fiction set in the possible future and keeps the story down to its essentials of escape.  I think I liked it even better than The Wind Singer, though both are excellent.

This is a gripping novel with likeable characters, a fascinating setting, and a suspenseful plot.  I wasn’t crazy about the ending, not feeling it was complete enough, until I read that the author is working on a sequel.  I can’t wait!

Review of the sequel to The City of Ember:
The People of Sparks

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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