Reviews for City of Ember
Booklist Monthly Selections - # 2 April 2003
Gr. 5-7. Ember, a 241-year-old, ruined domed city surrounded by a dark unknown, was built to ensure that humans would continue to exist on Earth, and the instructions for getting out have been lost and forgotten. On Assignment Day, 12-year-olds leave school and receive their lifetime job assignments. Lina Mayfleet becomes a messenger, and her friend Doon Harrow ends up in the Pipeworks beneath the city, where the failing electric generator has been ineffectually patched together. Both Lina and Doon are convinced that their survival means finding a way out of the city, and after Lina discovers pieces of the instructions, she and Doon work together to interpret the fragmented document. Life in this postholocaust city is well limned--the frequent blackouts, the food shortage, the public panic, the search for answers, and the actions of the powerful, who are taking selfish advantage of the situation. Readers will relate to Lina and Doon's resourcefulness and courage in the face of ominous odds. ((Reviewed April 15, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Fall
The city of Ember has no natural light, and the blackouts of its antiquated electrical grid are coming more and more frequently: ""disaster was right around the corner."" So thinks Doon, a curious twelve-year-old who, along with his spirited schoolmate Lina, determines to save the city. The writing is agreeably spare and remarkably suspenseful; fans will be pleased to know that there's plenty of room for a sequel. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #3
Unlike the rundown dystopia of Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, the darkness of Ember is essentially literal. Its people, by and large, are honorable and civilized; its governance is democratic if quasi-theocratic; its economy frugal but fair. But there is no natural light in Ember, and the blackouts of its antiquated electrical grid are coming more and more frequently: "running out of light bulbs, running out of power, running out of time--disaster was right around the corner." So thinks Doon, a curious twelve-year-old who, along with his spirited schoolmate Lina, determines to save the city. On a deliberately limited canvas, first-novelist DuPrau draws a picture of a closed society, all of its resources taken from vast but emptying storerooms, with no travel possible beyond the lights of the city. The writing and storytelling are agreeably spare and remarkably suspenseful, and rather than bogging down in explanations of how Ember came to be and how it functions, DuPrau allows the events of the story to convey the necessary information. There's a contrivance or two in keeping the narrative moving, but even the device of a hidden letter, complete with missing words, is used with such disarming forthrightness that readers will be eagerly deciphering it right alongside Doon and Lina. The two protagonists are good sorts, distinctively if not deeply etched, and fans (note: there will be many) will be pleased to know that while Doon and Lina's mission is triumphantly concluded, there's plenty of room for a sequel. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2003 May #2
This promising debut is set in a dying underground city. Ember, which was founded and stocked with supplies centuries ago by "The Builders," is now desperately short of food, clothes, and electricity to keep the town illuminated. Lina and Doon find long-hidden, undecipherable instructions that send them on a perilous mission to find what they believe must exist: an exit door from their disintegrating town. In the process, they uncover secret governmental corruption and a route to the world above. Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The setting is well-realized with the constraints of life in the city intriguingly detailed. The likable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride, their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment. (Fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 March # 2
In her electric debut, DuPrau imagines a post-apocalyptic underground world where resources are running out. The city of Ember, "the only light in the dark world," began as a survival experiment created by the "Builders" who wanted their children to "grow up with no knowledge of a world outside, so that they feel no sorrow for what they have lost." An opening prologue describes the Builders' intentions-that Ember's citizens leave the city after 220 years. They tuck "The Instructions" to a way out within a locked box programmed to open at the right time. But the box has gone astray. The story opens on Assignment Day in the year 241, when 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow draw lots for their jobs from the mayor's bag. Lina gets "pipeworks laborer," a job that Doon wants, while Doon draws "messenger," the job that Lina covets, and they trade. Through their perspectives, DuPrau reveals the fascinating details of this subterranean community: as Doon repairs leaks deep down among the Pipeworks, he also learns just how dire the situation is with their malfunctioning generator. Meanwhile, the messages Lina carries point to other sorts of subterfuge. Together, the pair become detectives in search of the truth-part of which may be buried in some strange words that were hidden in Lina's grandmother's closet. Thanks to full-blooded characters every bit as compelling as the plot, Lina and Doon's search parallels the universal adolescent quest for answers. Readers will sit on the edge of their seats as each new truth comes to light. Ages 10-13. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2003 May
Gr 4-7-DuPrau debuts with a promisingly competent variation on the tried-and-true "isolated city" theme. More than 200 years after an unspecified holocaust, the residents of Ember have lost all knowledge of anything beyond the area illuminated by the floodlamps on their buildings. The anxiety level is high and rising, for despite relentless recycling, food and other supplies are running low, and the power failures that plunge the town into impenetrable darkness are becoming longer and more frequent. Then Lina, a young foot messenger, discovers a damaged document from the mysterious Builders that hints at a way out. She and Doon, a classmate, piece together enough of the fragmentary directions to find a cave filled with boats near the river that runs beneath Ember, but their rush to announce their discovery almost ends in disaster when the two fall afoul of the corrupt Mayor and his cronies. Lina and Doon escape in a boat, and after a scary journey emerge into an Edenlike wilderness to witness their first sunrise-for Ember, as it turns out, has been built in an immense cavern. Still intent on saving their people, the two find their way back underground at the end, opening the door for sequels. The setting may not be so ingeniously envisioned as those of, say, Joan Aiken's Is Underground (Turtleback, 1995) and Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), but the quick pace and the uncomplicated characters and situations will keep voracious fans of the genre engaged.-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2003 June
When the builders of Ember planned the underground city, they provided a storehouse of goods for the residents' survival and a power plant to supply light to the town. Now, generations later, the supplies are dangerously low, and the lights are beginning to flicker. Ember is a socialist society, where even jobs are randomly assigned to residents. Nobody knows what lies without the walls, and everyone is too frightened to find out. Although directions on how to exit the city were entrusted to the first mayor of Ember, they were misplaced until Lina, an orphan and descendant of that mayor, finds a torn and mangled paper. Lina enlists fellow twelve-year-old Doon to aid in putting together the pieces. They are surprised to discover the missing instructions. After the teens are falsely accused of illegal activities and hunted by the police, they decide to elude capture by following the directions and leaving Ember. It will not take readers long to discover that Ember is a city-size bomb shelter and that a whole other world exists outside its walls. While Ember is colorless and dark, the book itself is rich with description. DuPrau uses the puzzle, suspenseful action, and lots of evil characters to entice readers into the story. They will find the teen characters believable and gutsy. Part mystery, part adventure story, this novel provides science fiction for those who do not like science fiction. The end of the book hints at a possible sequel.-Chris Carlson. PLB $17.99. ISBN 0-375-92274-1. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2003 Voya Reviews