Review: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Title: The City of Ember
Series: First Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Obtained: bought || image obtained from google image search
Publisher: Yearling
Rating: 3/5

Blurb

It is always night in the city of Ember. But there is no moon, no stars. The only light during the regular twelve hours of “day” comes from floodlamps that cast a yellowish glow over the streets of the city. Beyond are the pitch-black Unknown Regions, which no one has ever explored because an understanding of fire and electricity has been lost, and with it the idea of a Moveable Light. “Besides,” they tell each other, “there is nowhere but here” Among the many other things the people of Ember have forgotten is their past and a direction for their future. For 250 years they have lived pleasantly, because there has been plenty of everything in the vast storerooms. But now there are more and more empty shelves–and more and more times when the lights flicker and go out, leaving them in terrifying blackness for long minutes. What will happen when the generator finally fails?
Twelve-year-old Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet seem to be the only people who are worried. They have just been assigned their life jobs–Lina as a messenger, which leads her to knowledge of some unsettling secrets, and Doon as a Pipeworker, repairing the plumbing in the tunnels under the city where a river roars through the darkness. But when Lina finds a very old paper with enigmatic “Instructions for Egress,” they use the advantages of their jobs to begin to puzzle out the frightening and dangerous way to the city of light of which Lina has dreamed. (from Amazon.com)

On the Cover

The cover isn’t one that would capture my attention in a bookstore. Indeed, I overlooked it several times before finally picking it up after reading a review.
In some online pictures, the cover appears black, but that isn’t the case. it’s actually a dark copperish bronze. The word “ember” is twisted into the filament in the lightbulb at the center. The bulb itself seems to emit a soft coppery glow, and it feels like at any time the light could flicker and die. The cover also seems to convey one of the recurring themes in the book: darkness. The idea of light fading and being left in darkness.

The Plot

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.

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