Random House Children’s Books, 2003. 978-0-375-92274-9.
Synopsis: Ember is a mysterious city fashioned by The Builders lit only by light bulbs, which are turned off from 9pm to 6am each day. Food, clothing, and other supplies are provided for the city’s people from storerooms and children are required to attend school until the age of 12, when they are assigned a job. Long ago, the Builders left instructions for leaving the city in a box that would automatically open at the appointed time. The box was left in the care of the first mayor, and passed down from each mayor until one day it was lost.
Many years later, the city of Ember is in disrepair – blackouts and low amounts of supplies are causing panic. Lina Mayfleet and her friend Doon Harrow believe that something must be done to save the city. Day by day, as the blackouts last a little bit longer, Lina and Doon discover the mayor has been hoarding food and supplies for himself in a storeroom deep underground, and everyone believes that the day the lights will not come back on is near. Then, Lina’s grandmother finds a mysterious box hidden in their closet, containing instructions for getting out of the city. The only problem is Lina’s sister has chewed the paper and the instructions are indecipherable. Now Lina and Doon must decipher the riddle in order to save their city.
Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me by a friend, who picked it up because she was intrigued by the cover art. I was similarly inspired by this comic.
Why I finished it: DuPrau takes an interesting look at the dystopian society melding together different elements from the science fiction genre to create a city and its peoples that are totally dependent on the ruling powers to help keep their city going. I liked that DuPrau puts the power of finding a solution into the hands of two 12-year-olds, creating the belief that one is never too young to find the right answers and save the city. The voice of the third person narrator is both childlike and mature, seeming to weigh the options as it follows Doon and Lina in their journey to save their beloved city and their families.
Other related materials: The City of Ember (movie); The People of Sparks (Book 2 of the Books of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau; The Prophet of Yonwood (Book 3 in the Books of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins