Book review: City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The City of Ember is about a twelve year old girl named Lina Mayfleet who lives in the city of Ember. It is a city underground and was built after disaster struck on earth and people were forced to go into hiding. It is never mentioned what exactly happened, but you can assume it’s something horrible if people are forced to restart their lives in an underground city. The mayor of the city is given a box which includes instructions on how to exit Ember and this box is locked for at least 200 years. The box gets passed on from mayor to mayor, until … the box ends up in Lina Mayfleet’s closet and is forgotten.

Every twelve year old in Ember gets assigned a job, and Lina gets assigned to be a pipeworker when in fact she wants to be a messenger. Luckily for her, her classmate Doon is willing to trade jobs with her, as he is interested in figuring out more about Ember and figures being a pipeworker is the best way to do that. When Lina finds the box with instructions in her closet, her kid sister Poppy mistakenly turns it into her lunch meal and thus makes the instructions unreadable. It is up to Doon and Lina to decode it – no matter the consequences or outcome.

One of the challenges of book-tube-a-thon was to read a book that had a film adaptation, so I also watched the film after I finished the book. The first difference between the book and the film is quite obvious – in the film, Lina and Doon are significantly older than twelve. Why they’ve done that isn’t clear, maybe to make it more accessible to a wider audience. I was happy to see that the film makers at least did not force Lina and Doon to have a love relationship, as that is not the point of the story.

The strongest point of this book, I feel, is that the entire idea is very believable. It’s terrifying to think that tiny Lina and Doon live in a city that deals with complete blackouts practically every two minutes because of a failing generator, and that food and supplies are running out. This is a situation that nobody wants to be in and so you start getting immersed in Lina and Door’s desire to get out of Ember. You bite your lip while reading about them trying to figure out the instructions, and you sigh when they reach a dead end.

The writing style was easy to follow, perhaps because the story was written for a younger audience than myself. I still, however, did not feel like the writing was far beneath my reading ability, I never felt like I was reading something infinitely too easy. If anything, the easy writing style and lack of big, imposing words was a break for my brain – I feel like a lot of books nowadays are filled with big, fancy words to impress when in fact it can get pretty annoying.

Four stars for the City of Ember for an interesting storyline and understandable characters, for rooting for their survival and for well descriptive text and dialogue.

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