Book Review for The City of Ember and People of Sparks
DuPrau, J. (2003). The city of ember. New York: Yearling.
DuPrau, J. (2004). The people of sparks. New York: Yearling.
Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember and The People of Sparks are the first two installments in the series of The Books of Ember. This riveting young adult series follows the ever adventurous Lina Mayfleet and friend Doon Harrow as they live in the post-apocalyptic city of Ember. The storyline chronicles their search for truth and the origins of their city. They also risk their lives and freedom to find salvation for their endangered population as their resources dwindle and their city falls apart. The Books of Ember is an ideal series for any young adult with a passion for science-fiction and fantasy reading. Reading these novels is sure to put you on the edge of your seat as the main characters search for truth, solve mysteries of the past, and teach their city life lessons along the way.
The first novel, The City of Ember, is where the journey begins. The reader is aware that this unique civilization is endangered, though it is not clear how. The city runs out of resources, and as the electricity begins to fail, the people of Ember are in danger of being lost in the darkness forever. People begin to quarrel, the mayor hoards his possession, and warning signs of sure disaster are ignored. Protagonist Lina Mayfleet and comrade Doon Harrow devote their lives to finding a solution for their beloved yet decrepit city. Their search for truth leads them to a long forgotten secret. The creators of their city, the Builders, have left instructions on how to escape when all else fails. Lina and Doon are overjoyed at finding salvation for their city, and they cannot wait to share their victorious news with the Mayor and their fellow citizens. However, they find that the Mayor is not so receptive to their findings. In the process of their search, Lina and Doon discover that the greedy mayor has become an antagonist to all the people of Ember; he is stealing and hoarding their much needed resources for himself. The two young protagonists once dreamed of glory and renown for their findings; now they are running for their lives. The two friends make the hardest decision of their lives: desert the city of Ember and save them later, or stay with their people and be put away by the Mayor. It’s a tough decision, but Lina and Doon know what they need to do for their city. In desperate flight they pack their few belongings and make the treacherous exit from the city of Ember. What they find when they reach safety shocks them; the city of Ember was an underground safe haven for all of civilization. They were some of the last surviving people on earth after an apocalyptic series of wars and plagues known as the “Disaster”. Lina and Doon are overjoyed to find a world full of sunlight, space, and natural resources; if only they could find a way to communicate with the beloved people they left behind. In hopes that they will one day see their families again, the two send a note floating down to the underground city. At the very end of the story the joy is made complete when they come to find that the city of Ember has found their note and has joined them in the glorious world above. The only question now is, how will they survive in a world they do not know?
The City of Ember kicks off Jeanne DuPrau’s series with a roaring start. This novel is full of action and adventure, though that is not the only reason it is an enjoyable read. The harrowing journey of main characters teaches lessons that are vital for young adolescents. These lessons are easily gleaned, and the consequences of not heeding this advice are evident in the trials of the people of Ember. Through this novel DuPrau strives to show young adults many things: don’t take for yourself what other people need; take care of the planet before it’s too late; do what is right no matter what it costs you. Young readers are sure to enjoy the action packed storyline as well as the emotional lessons learned. The City of Ember satisfies the craving for science-fiction and fantasy and leaves its readers ready for more.
The People of Sparks picks up right where The City of Ember left off: at the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. Life as the people of Ember knew it is over, but a bigger and better life waits ahead of them. Initially, this newly emancipated city believes themselves to be the only people left in this bright new world, however they are over joyed to discover that they are not alone. The people of the city of Sparks are one of the last remaining civilizations after the Disaster. This series of war and plague has left the earth desolate. In their generosity they heed to needs of the people of Ember and take them under their protection. The hosts of this new city introduce Ember to their new world; they teach them how to find food, how to build homes, and how to take care of themselves. These interactions begin peacefully, but as food begins to run low and tensions run high, nobody knows how long they can avoid conflict.
Just like its predecessor, The People of Sparks is packed full with simple and significant messages that we sometimes take for granted. Throughout the rise of conflict the people of Ember and the people of Sparks learn how easy it is to get angry and strike out to hurt others. They learn that payback never really pays, and that doing the right thing goes against human nature. However, in the end they realize just how much their conflict has hurt each other. After a near-death situation for all, these two groups of people learn to work together and put their differences aside. There is no longer “them” or “us”; there is no longer the people of Ember and the people of Sparks. After resolving their differences they all join together as one people under one name. The People of Sparks teaches its reader how to get along with others in times of conflict, and this is a lesson highly relevant for young adults.
Jeanne DuPrau does a marvelous job of extending the action, anticipation, drama, and peaceful lessons of the first book throughout the rest of her series. The Books of Ember are a fun and addictive read that showcases the importance of always doing the right thing in the face of adversity.