The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau was a book that I had found while looking for a book for my 9-year-old son. He has never been a big reader, but he needed a fiction book for a school project and I was hoping he would enjoy this one. I was thrilled when I found him in his room engrossed in it a few days later. He would tell me little bits about the story, but kept most of it secret because he was determined that I would enjoy it and should read it myself. He is now halfway through the second installment in the series and it seems to have sparked something in him. Yesterday when we were in the car for a long time, he left his iPod at home and brought his book! GASP! I was so excited, but I tried not to make a big deal about it. It is a wonderful thing when a child finally discovers all the joys of reading.
But, back to The City of Ember . I really liked it. Lena and Doon are twelve-years-old, have finished with their education and assigned their own jobs. Lena is a messenger who runs from one side of their city to the other, delivering spoken-word messages from person to person. Doon works in the Pipeworks repairing the pipes that deliver water and power to the city. Ember is a city, but it is also the entire world. The lights come on in the morning and at night when they turn off, the entire world is black. There is no fire and no "moveable light" so they have no way to explore the "unknown regions" outside of the reach of the large floodlights. The excitement comes when Lena discovers a set of instructions that have been locked away in a box for longer than anyone can remember. She suspects that they are a guide to the way out of Ember, not that she has any idea what that would mean.
My children are far from being ready for books like The Hunger Games or anything similar, but The City of Ember gives just a taste of a dystopian world that isn't too scary, but it also expands their imagination about what could happen in the world. I thought this was a fun book to read and it ended with such a wonderful cliffhanger that I can't wait for my son to finish the second book so that I can read it. It's also really fun for me to be in a tiny book club of sorts with one of my children. I highly recommend that!