Kereesa's Reviews > The City of Ember

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 09, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: 2011, apocalyptic, childrens, friendship, we-are-never-getting-back-together
Recommended for: Ages 7-12.
Read on August 25, 2011

The City of Ember follows the adventures of two eleven year olds, Lina and Doon, who attempt to find a way out of their dark, slowly starving world. With the help of a few mangled instructions, Lina and Doon discover a hidden secret lost in the city of Ember, all the while fighting to stay out of sight of the corrupted major...

The City of Ember has been hailed as one of the many successors or one of the better middle school novels on par with Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. And while Ember certainly has its good points, it is not, in my opinion, a novel that matures as well as HP and HDM does for older readers. Ember, in all reality, is very much a children's and solely a children's novel, in contrast to the older, adult themes found in both HP and HDM.

One of things I enjoyed while reading The City of Ember was the setting, Ember, itself. The city is set in a place where eternal darkness reigns, and its inhabitants are forced to depend on electricity, and the supposedly never ending supplies the Builders and original people of the city have manufactured for them. Except, at this point, both the electric generator running the city, and the supplies are dwindling into ruin as the city begins to starve slowly, and fear the ever creeping darkness held at bay by the lights. That was my favorite part of this novel, and maybe only the part I really enjoyed. It's an interesting notion after all, and it works well into that apocalyptic/dystopian genre.

What annoyed me about the setting, however, was the fact that DuPrau never makes it as intense or desperate as it could be. Maybe it's because I've read the Hunger Games, and absolutely reveled in Collins' honest and heart-wrenching poverty, but I felt there wasn't enough of that slowly dying/starving mentality or desperation at all in the way Ember, the city itself, was like nor how the characters, Lina and Doon, acted. Even though both are, from what I assume anyway, part of the lower class, and cannot afford a lot of stuff. There wasn't a scramble or worry from either of them, and while I know they are both eleven, they both do take on a lot of responsibility. ie they both are expected to have jobs and essentially careers by eleven. I think that added desperation was something DuPrau missed out on writing/incorporating in her novel, because, perhaps she didn't (or the market didn't allow her to) want to lose track of that middle-school reading mentality and expectations, but should've been there not only because it would've been an interesting story element, but also because it would've provided so much more depth to the world and its characters. That possibility of starvation, that push for survival are both such great plot devices to bring forth conflict your readers will die to know the outcome of, and to show how your characters stand up in the face of such adversity.

Anyway, so the characters, as you've might've guessed, aren't much to speak of. Both Lina and Doon, the main protagonists who share alternating chapters, are very bland and are motivated by their sense of adventure, and in Doon's case: his anger. They don't face much conflict throughout the book, and they don't undergo any development as characters as far as I could see. The other characters are outlined by where they stand as either good or bad guys, making them even more bland and without any real personalities.

The plot is pretty predictable, and moves quickly. Conflicts don't really come to a head, and sub-plots don't make much of an appearance. Most of the book focuses on finding a way out of Ember, and thus doesn't go into the usual required character development, or even dystopian this-is-what-is-wrong-with-our-society overall theme. Unless you count corruption.

The writing is both simple and bland. It is written for 10 year olds after all. Noting poetic or pretty pose-like about this one, kiddos.

All in all, The City of Ember is a good book for young age children, with easy reading, and an exciting, happy plot. Older readers, adults included, might want to look elsewhere for a more mature children's novel, although Ember does provide a good introduction to dystopian scifi elements.

Or you could just read 1984.

1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The City of Ember.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Giselle (new) - added it

Giselle I haven't read 1984 yet. Have it on the Reader though... I will eventually...

Kereesa It's excellent. I read it a few years ago, and still rave about it. When you get the time, do do read it :D

back to top