I really love reading and rereading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. It was one of the first dystopian novels that I ever read. The other "early" dystopian novel being The Giver. While I've probably read The Giver a good half-dozen times or so, The City of Ember is one I've read only a few times.
It opens with a prologue of sorts, a discussion of "the Instructions." The Builders create a box that will open when the time is right--about 220 years--and reveal a set of instructions for the mayor to help lead the people of Ember out of the darkness and into the light. That was the plan. That wasn't what actually happened, however, one mayor having failed to tell his successor of the box before he died. The box was "lost" seemingly forever. The instructions to remain a secret....
First sentence: In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark.
There is a heroine and a hero in this children's book. Doon is recently assigned to the pipeworks. Lina is recently assigned to be a Messenger. They're young--twelve or thirteen--and their future seems uncertain. Readers get to spend time with Lina and her family (a grandmother whose memory and health is failing, a baby sister) and Doon and his family (a father who is very supportive and encouraging to his son). Readers also get to meet a handful of other residents in the town. One such resident being the mayor (boo, hiss).
The premise of this one is fantastic. For over two hundred years generations have lived underground in the city of Ember not knowing that there was a world above, not even knowing they were underground. All of their resources are limited, severely limited. And the city of Ember, is, in fact "dying" because things are wearing down and running out. The people remain unaware despite the frequency of blackouts and shortages at stores. (Would canned goods *really* last over two hundred years? Would light bulbs and batteries really have that long a shelf life? I'm not sure I want to over-think it.)
At the heart of this one is the mystery. The instructions come to 'the light of day' so to speak tattered and chewed. Lina, Doon, and a few trusted adults piece together letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into ideas.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews