The more I think about The City of Ember, the more I like it.
Deep underground, the people of Ember have never seen the sun and don’t even know it exists. The builders of their city planned for them to emerge, but that plan was lost and forgotten, and now Ember is running out of supplies, and its generator, without which there is no light, is breaking down. Will the builders return to save the people of Ember, as some believe? Does the mayor have a plan for his people? Or will it be up to Lina and Doon to rediscover the lost exit to the surface?
The setting is richly imagined, and the plot and characters live up to a unique and fascinating premise. The real strength of the book is the thematic content, though. Ember (the book) is not a riveting but meaningless retro-futuristic adventure like Ember (the movie); it has a wealth of moral lessons that come across as relevant rather than didactic.
The core message of the book is to uphold dedication to thinking over complacency, to admire planning and forethought rather than taking things as they come, to act rather than wait.
Other themes are that curiosity is good, that we should pay attention and notice things, that we should take our family, friends, and responsibilities seriously, that getting away with something doesn’t make it right.
See below for a chapter-by-chapter plot summary and some key quotes.
You might also want to check out the Shmoop literature guide for City of Ember.
But really, if you haven’t, you should read the book yourself!