I am having a hard time figuring out what to say about The City of Ember. I enjoyed the book. I liked the main characters, and I liked the supporting characters. I liked the dystopian aspects and the mystery aspects of the story, although Lina and Doon's efforts to decipher the message written on a torn up piece of paper did not translate too smoothly to audio format, which made the mystery aspects a little tedious at times. DuPrau carefully built Ember, and took care to make her two main characters three dimensional.
That said, I guess I feel a little bit chagrined by the abrupt way in which this first book in the series ended. I suppose that it ended at a "good spot," but just when things were starting to get really intriguing, when the questions really started to flood my mind, the book stopped! Great way to boost sales of the next book, but frustrating to me as an adult. I don't know if I feel invested enough to read the next book in the series, but I do want my questions answered, so we shall see, I suppose. If I were a 5th or 6th grader, I'm sure I'd be reaching for the next book in this series before I even pulled my bookmark out of this one.
Enough about that. What I really did love about the book was the allegorical aspects. I thought the book was an allegory for an awakening. Perhaps spiritual, perhaps intellectual, perhaps emotional, but awakening, nonetheless. DuPrau really wrote some lovely passages that explored awakening, and I thought the book was the strongest at those points. Adults will pick up on the allegory quickly, I think, but this is going to be subtle to kids. In other words, the allegory was not heavy handed for the audience that this book was intended for, and I appreciated that.
I would recommend this book to my 5th grade niece. I believe she would like Lina, and I think she'd become invested in her struggles to improve life for her family and for her city. I also believe that this is exactly the kind of book that would make the gears in her mind click. She'd want to know why things were the way they were in Ember, and unfortunately, that doesn't really quite get explained too clearly in this book. I don't think I'd be able to answer her questions. I guess those unanswered questions are what drive readers to the next book in the series.