A city called Ember has survived, as the citizens believe, as the only human civilization left after a catastrophe no one can remember. Things aren’t going well though because the lights won’t stay on, supplies are running low, and growing political unrest. The city doesn’t produce anything other than vegetables in green houses, so any building materials have to be recycled. Even things such as paper and coloring items (e.g. paints, crayons, colored pencils, etc.) have become luxury items.
Lina and Doon are 12 and about to choose their careers. Similar to Divergent, teens are sorted into what will be their future careers. There’s a certain prestige to some of the careers so all are vying for the more exciting ones. Lina has her heart set on being a messanger, but draws working in the Pipeworks. Doon draws messenger which doesn’t interest him. He swaps Lina because he knows that she wants badly to be a messenger.For all of the importance that’s given to these careers, it seems anti-climactic that the kids just draw from a bag.
Doon decides that he will use his career to help solve Ember’s problems. Lina is just trying to keep her family together. Until she stumbles on some instructions that lay out how Ember can solve its problems. Early on readers will realize that Ember is a city in a cave but the people living in Ember don’t know that since they only know Ember as their reality. I don’t know whether it was meant to, but this read like an allegory of Plato’s “The Cave”. Picking up on this early on made the plot more interesting. Lina and Doon are pretty flat characters and the plot isn’t too complex. This is definitely a middle school read rather than high school but adults may be interested in the allegorical elements.