Books You Probably Haven’t Read But Should: City of Ember

… or perhaps I should say, “…Your Kids Haven’t Read But Should.” Because I love dystopian stories (and the novel I’m writing fits into that category) City of Ember was recommended to me by Holly McDowell, the author of the book series I wrote about in my first “Books You Probably Haven’t Read” post. It’s what the publishing field calls a middle-grade novel, meaning that it’s meant for readers between children’s books and Young Adult books–around fifth through eighth grade or so. So if you don’t generally like reading kids’ books, as I sometimes do, you might want to give this one to your kids.

Ember is a city in darkness. The only available light is artificial, from light bulbs, and those are starting to run out. The power grid is showing its age too, with power outages occurring more and more frequently. Meanwhile, the supplies of food and medicine, which the citizens of Ember were told would last forever, are running low.

Lina and Doon are both 12 years old, and have just begun their new jobs as all 12-year-olds must. But like most 12-year-olds, they also dream of achieving great things, of doing more with their lives than the adults around them have. When Lina stumbles across a mysterious note, they think this may be their chance at heroism. However, there are others in Ember who have reason to want things to stay the way they are.

I felt like the book was a little slow to get going, but once it picked up speed, it never stopped–and the end is terrific. The author, Jeanne DuPrau, could have easily left it at that and the ending would have been satisfying, but I just discovered that it’s a four-book series. Curse, you, Holly! *shakes fist* I need to catch up on some other reading before my library request for the other Ember books comes through.

My 9-year-old also likes fantasy, but most dystopians are a little rough for her age. I think I’m going to pass this one along to her though. Come on, dystopian fans–what are your favorites?

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