Tuesday, July 24, 2012
City of Secrets and Lies
How many of us believe what our government, our bosses, or our parents tell us? We tend to believe and trust what people in positions of power tell us without questioning their motives. In Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember: Books of Ember, Book One, she takes a world of darkness and shows how far a little light can really go.
Lina Mayfleet has been given her job in the City of Ember. She is to report to Pipeworks, the worst, dirtiest, wettest job in the city of Ember that works underground keeping the city's pipes patched and running. Doon Harrow got the coveted position of Messenger, but he offers to trade Lina for Pipeworks. She is baffled by his choice but won't pass up a chance to be a messenger. Doon is determined to find a way to save Ember, and he thinks the answer might be the generator which is underground.
The City of Ember is in trouble. The electricity is failing more frequently, the good canned goods are gone, leaving behind the ones people suffer through, and materials are becoming more and more scarce. The reason is the Builders of Ember never intended for the people of Ember to stay this long. They had a plan, complete with an exit route, mapped out, but through greed and selfishness and mishap, the box with the plans has been lost in Lina's house for generations, set to pop open at the appropriate time. When her little sister Poppy finds it and begins to eat it, Lina saves it before it is totally destroyed, but not before Poppy's drool erased some important parts. Lina goes to Doon and together they try to uncover the secrets that lie within the City of Ember. What they don't expect is that not everyone wants to hear about what they have found.
I have known about this series for quite some time, but never got around to reading it. I am really glad I finally did because it is quite phenomenal! It is most certainly a middle reader series, as the writing is very young and in particular, the characters are incredibly naive. There were times when Lina and Doon were reporting misdeeds they had encountered to the very people reaping the benefits (who clearly wouldn't be happy about a couple of kids revealing their thievery) and I was screaming, "No! Don't Do it! ARRGGHHH!" But, as very, very sheltered kids stuck in this little city where the only light is manufactured (and quickly running out), I guess I can see why they were so naive. They have never known anything other than following what their leaders tell them to do (in fact, they don't even know what a boat is). But while that naivete made me a little frustrated at times, it would be perfect for a younger reader, maybe a strong 3rd grader through low-skilled 7th grader who is themselves fairly naive. An older, more worldly student would be annoyed by the kids' lack of skepticism.
The youngness of this series would make it a perfect addition to any middle reader shelves. All those kids whose parents were worried Hunger Games was too violent while the kids just want to read what is popular, might like this very different, yet very good dystopia. There is also a movie made of the first book! So keep this great story around for your younger readers intrigued by strange places and you will get them hooked, because the end of this book leaves off with the reader dying for more! You won't be able to resist!