Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 270
Awards: American Library Association Notable Book
Genre/Subgenre: Science fiction/dystopian fiction
Two plucky twelve-year olds must save the City of Ember from going dark forever.
In the City of Ember, society is in danger. Food sources are dwindling, people live in poverty, the leaders are corrupt and the city’s light sources are rapidly failing. Twelve year olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow are determined to do what they can to save the city. Doon, a Pipeworks laborer, uses his job in the city’s energy center to try to diagnose the problem with the city’s lights. Meanwhile, Lina, a Messenger, discovers the most helpful clue of all in the form of a small box hidden inside her family’s closet. This box contains instructions for saving the population of the City of Ember. Doon and Lina are able to decipher these instructions and determine that the population must escape the city through a hidden door in the Pipeworks. The two are able to escape with Lina’s baby sister, and find that the outside world they have been taught to doubt exists and is seemingly livable. Most importantly, they realize that the City of Ember is underground, which is why it must be constantly powered with artificial light. Doon and Lina end the novel by attempting to send a note back to the City of Ember telling the rest of the population how to escape.
The City of Ember is based around an interesting concept – a dying city in need of a solution. I think that DuPrau makes some interesting observations about society’s use of resources that could spark class discussions around issues of environmentalism and energy use. Lina and Doon are both very likable protagonists. As a reader, I really enjoyed their teamwork, savvy, and commitment to saving the city – I think they are great role models for young readers! The City of Ember would be a good recommendation for readers looking for a science fiction or dystopian series who might be too young for the more mature themes in series such as The Hunger Games.
Why I Chose the Book:
I am a dystopian fiction enthusiast and I was curious to read a dystopian novel geared towards a middle school audience, as most of the popular works in the genre seem to be written for high school or young adult readers.
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
Book Talk Ideas
Host a screening of the 2008 film version of The City of Ember and compare and contrast it to the novel.
1. Compare and contrast Lina and Doon. What are their individual strengths, and why do they make a good team?
2. At the end of the novel, Lina and Doon find a journal that explains how the City of Ember came to be. Were you surprised by the city’s history? What are your predictions for the sequel, The People of Sparks?
The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) by Jeanne DuPrau (2014). Goodreads. Retrieved from:
The City of Ember Film (2014). IMDB. Retrieved from:
DuPrau, J (2003). The City of Ember. New York, NY: Random House.