Review by Linda Harmon
The city of Ember is an underground
world where supplies are running out. The only light in the city
comes from large flood lamps mounted on buildings and poles
throughout the city. The lights are turned on at six in the morning
and turned off at nine o'clock at night. Power outages are becoming
more frequent and lasting longer. When the lights are off the
inhabitants are in total darkness.
The city was created by a group of
people known as "The Builders" after some sort of apocalyptic event.
The Builders decided that for safety reasons the inhabitants should
not leave the city for at least 200 or 220 years. Knowing that the
inhabitants wouldn't know what to do when the time came to leave,
they created a set of instructions for them. The instructions were
put in a special wooden box equipped with a lock timed to open on a
certain date. The box would be entrusted to the mayor of the city
and hidden in the basement of the Gathering Hall. It would be passed
on to new mayors as they came into office but none of them would
know the contents of the box until it was opened.
The first six mayors took care of the
special box, but the seventh mayor was not as trustworthy as the
rest; he took the box home and tried to open it. This mayor suffered
from a lung illness that was common at the time, and he thought the
box might contain something that would heal him. When he was
unsuccessful in opening the box, he threw it in the back of his
closet at home under a pile of junk. Year after year the box
remained in the closet unnoticed until one day it quietly opened.
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The story opens on Assignment Day in
the year 241. The children of Ember go to school only until they are
12 years old and upon their graduation are given work assignments.
The mayor assigns the jobs, and they will have them as long as they
are able to work.
Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow are
graduating from school and ready to enter the work force. Lina hopes
her assignment will be as a messenger because she loves to run and
explore the city. Doon wants to work in the underground Pipeworks
because he thinks he can find a way to save the city. After the
ceremony they discover that each one got the job the other one
wanted, and they decide to trade.
Lina lives with her grandmother and
baby sister, Poppy. She loves her new job but soon discovers that
things are not as the city government officials would have them
believe. Doon discovers that the mayor has been hoarding food and
supplies and that the governmental corruption doesn't stop with him.
Lina's grandmother accidentally
uncovers the ancient box with the instructions for leaving Ember.
Lina tells Doon about the box, and the two decide it is up to them
to find the way out and save the people of Ember.
When the mayor finds out that they know
what he is doing, he sends the guards to find and arrest them. Lina
and Doon must flee and use the instructions to find the way out of
This is an
exciting story with a cliffhanger ending. The main characters are
likable and believable. This is a first novel for Jeanne DuPrau, and
she is already working on the sequel. The book is recommended for
ages 9 to 13.
Public Library District]