Monday, July 17, 2017

MMGM: The City of Ember

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

The City of Ember, book 1,
by Jeanne DuPrau and Chris Reily
The City of Ember

Written by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Chis Reily
Random House Books For Young Readers, 2003
Ages 8-12, Lexile 680L
60,000 words, 288 pp

Dystopian adventure

The prologue begins
"When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future."

Chapter 1 begins
"In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds.

"Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair."

Let's be frank. I hate prologues. I think this one was decent and mercifully short, but probably unnecessary. OK. Enough about that.

I adore this book. From the time it first appeared on the bookshelves I knew I had to read it. It just emanated that certain something. And The City of Ember does not disappoint.

Though not a fan of dystopian world-building, this novel had all the cool elements: a unique setting, immediate stakes, interesting characters, underdogs, solid voice. I love the main character (s) and their families. I love the element of mystery, of puzzling out the clues to save the world. And I really didn't know how this story would finish. I hoped for a happy ending, but it often seemed out of reach.

At the risk of sounding cranky and negative, I wish I had stopped this series at book one. My absolute love for this book is nearly crushed by the succeeding novels. I'd love to hear your opinion on this.

1. I found this interview with the author rather sweet, available on the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow.

2. Looking for more dystopian books for middle graders? Other MMGM bloggers recommend Margaret Peterson Haddix's many books, like Children of Exile, Sabotaged, Among the Imposters, and Found.

Or sample one of the MG adventures below.

Bot Wars, by J. V. Kade
illustrated by Steve Stankiwewicz,
reviewed by
Heise Reads & Recommends.
The Age of Miracles, 
by Karen Thompson Walker
Reviewed by Writer's Alley

The Artic Code,
cover art by Paul Sullivan
by Lana Krumweide,
cover by Maryellen Hanley
reviewed by Lucky 13s

Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the City of Ember movie, from July 14, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Visit all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 17, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!


  1. I'm not a big fan of prologues either but this one sounds like it works. I have somehow avoided reading this book the past decade but your review has put it back on the top of my list.

    1. It IS hard to get that TBR pile to shrink, isn't it? Thanks for your comments.

  2. I always despise it when the sequel to a book isn't as good as the first one. I haven't heard of this one before, but I'm intrigued by the dystopian world-building. I will add it to my TBR list! Thanks for your review.
    - Vi

  3. I still love this book! Great choice!

    1. Me too. My daughter bought me the deluxe anniversary edition so of course I had to read it again, plus it has some cool extras.

  4. This one holds up well, and I've always wanted to see the movie, since I like Bill Murray. I was okay with all of them but Prophet of Yonwood, which was needlessly confusing. Dystopia has seen its day in my library, so it isn't surprising that the list I did was five years ago. Probably should update!

    1. I've actually read quite a few on that list. Turnabout is one of my all time favorite books, though I don't remember it being particularly dystopian. Wish I could figure out how to make the above text an actual link, but thank-you.

  5. I loved the book and the movie! This is mild dystopian, compared to most books today. It's sweet and a great adventure against time. Never read the sequels.

    1. The sequels get a little darker in my opinion. But I agree with you, I love both versions of Ember. Thanks.

  6. I've seen this one, but never read it. It's helpful to know that you didn't find the sequels to be as good as the original.

    1. Again, just my opinion. I thought they explored darker themes and in general, I was unsatisfied by the endings. If the story is depressing, I like the end to balance that with an uplifting message. Thanks for reading.

  7. I loved this book! The setting really is unique and I haven't read anything like it to this day. The sequels were super disappointing though and I didn't bother finishing them. Thanks for the review!

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I feel a bit guilt when I give something a bad review and start to doubt my own tastes. You might try Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. Not nearly as sweet, but a unique and creative world.

  8. I loved the first book in the series the most too! The rest of the series seems a little darker. I remember the last book (The Prophet of Yonwood) confused me a little (if I remember correctly). Glad you enjoyed our interview with the author. :)

    1. Thanks, Jess. And I promise to let you know about Gold Bug when I read Jenny's book (which I'm embarrassed to say is STILL on my TBR pile.) THhre's a fourth book in the Ember series, The Diamond of Darkhold. I'll probably give it a try at some point.


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