The City of Ember is written by Jeanne DuPrau. It was published in 2003 by Random House. DuPrau’s website can be found here.
“Lina Mayfleet desperately wants to be a messenger. Messengers spend their days outside, running from one corner of the city to the other. Instead, she draws the dreaded job of Pipeworks laborer, which means she’ll be stuck in tunnels deep underground.
Doon Harrow draws messenger—and asks to trade with Lina! Doon wants to be underground. That’s where the generator is, and Doon has ideas about how to fix it. For as long as anyone can remember, the great lights of Ember have kept the endless darkness that surrounds the city at bay. But now the lights are starting to flicker…
When Lina finds fragments of an ancient parchment, she and Doon put the pieces together to discover a message that seems to be the directions out of the city. Is there something beyond the endless darkness? It will take all of Lina and Doon’s bravery and ingenuity to find out—before the lights go out on Ember forever!”
What I Liked:
How I’ve gone so long without reading this book I don’t know. I remember seeing the trailer for the movie a while ago, and it sparked (ha!) my interest then, but apparently not enough to either see the movie or read the book. But now I have, and man…what a great book.
There is so much great significance in the entire premise of the book. Moving from Dark to Light…off the top of my head, I can think of three things to extrapolate from that: ignorance to wisdom, shadows to forms (Plato’s cave), and even the religious sense of death to life, made even more prominent by the appearance of the Believers in the book and Clary’s questions about where life came from.
Loved the realization Lina made that her desire for the colored pencils was a not a good desire to have. It was a selfish desire, and it was a damaging one. I’ll just quote the whole passage here because it’s so great:
“Still, something was wrong with grabbing the good things just because you could. It seemed not only unfair to everyone else but bad for the person who was doing it, somehow. She remembered the hunger she’d felt when Looper showed her the colored pencils. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. She didn’t want to want things that way.”
It’s a fairly formulaic book, and Lina and Doon aren’t terribly stand-out protagonists, but I loved the symbolism and themes so much that neither of those things bothered me.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Genre: Dystopian, Middle Grade
“It knows because it has life in it,” said Clary. “But where does life come from? What is life?”
Lina could see that words were welling up in Clary now; her eyes were bright, her cheeks were rosy.
“Take a lamp, for instance. When you plug it in, it comes alive, in a way. It lights up. That’s because it’s connected to a wire that’s connected to the generator, which is making electricity, though don’t ask me how. But a bean seed isn’t connected to anything. Neither are people. We don’t have plugs and wires that connect us to generators. What makes living things go is inside them somehow.” Her dark eyebrows drew together over her eyes. “What I mean is,” she said finally, “something is going on that we don’t understand. They say the Builders made the city. But who made the Builders? Who made us? I think the answer must be somewhere outside of Ember.”
Finally, he turned to look at Lina. “I think you’re right,” he said. “I think this is important.”
“Oh, I was sure you’d think so!” Lina cried. She was so relieved that her words poured out in a rush. “Because you take things seriously! You told the truth to the mayor on Assignment Day. I didn’t want to believe it, but then came the long blackout, and I knew—I knew things were as bad as you said.” She stopped, breathless. She pointed to a word on the document. “This door,” she said. “It has to be a door that leads out of Ember.”
I pretty much loved everything about The City of Ember. A wonderful book that’s simple, but beautiful and thought-provoking. I especially loved the dark/light theme and Lina’s thoughts on desire.
You can buy this here: The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember)