Fantasy. Juvenile Fiction. Juvenile Literature. The People of Sparks picks up where The City of Ember leaves off. Lina and Doon have emerged from the underground city to the exciting new world above, and it isn’t long before they are followed by the other inhabitants of Ember. The Emberites soon come across a town where they are welcomed, fed, and given places to sleep. But the town’s resources are limited and it isn’t long before resentment begins to grow between the two groups. When anonymous acts of vandalism push them toward violence, it’s up to Lina and Doon to discover who’s behind the vandalism and why, before it’s too late.
Original publication date
Not everything works, but most of the problems are excusable. Tick Hassler and Torren both badly telecast their plot roles. A short epilogue exploring the lean season coming to the village of Sparks would have been nice.
The theme is grander and deeper and more moral-centric than what most YA books offer, and it is worth noting that the primary plot line can be discussed without mention of Lina and Doon, the two primary characters. Each has a vital role to play, and each is involved in some sub-plots, but the overall theme of this book is how enemies are made and how war begins.
In Sparks there are some rather significant changes to the plot dynamics which allow for some intriguing new commentary on humanity and social interactions. We're given a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity is trying to recover and rebuild. This high level genre is compounded by being seen primarily through the eyes of children and also by making the Emberites ignorant of the disasters that befell humanity or even of human history at all. In fact, through the entire first book, they had no knowledge of any other human culture at all and thought their microcosm to be the extent of humanity.
The main new dynamic in the book acted as a commentary on the interactions between people in strained situations and the passions which lead to prejudice, anger, and eventually to war. The plot separated for a time the two main characters from Ember, Lina and Doon.
Lina acts as the reader's guide to understanding the history of this new world and how humanity fell into war as well as understanding the current geography and social structure. She undertakes a journey to one of the old cities in the hopes of finding something akin to the drawing she made in the first book. Instead, she finds disaster and learns about war, disease and destruction.
Doon serves as the reader's guide to watching two struggling groups of people dealing with hardships and sacrifices as the Emberites are taught about life in the new world and how to survive above ground. He feels the sting of hostility as the people of Sparks grow resentful of the Emberites consuming their food and other resources. That resentment grows into mistrust and eventually sparks begin to fly (pardon the pun).
As tensions grow between the people, one of the Emberites named Tick Hassler (an antagonistic name if ever I saw one *grin*) grows hungry for a fight and begins riling up the people of Ember to prepare for battle. Doon feels conflicted throughout and Lina (once she returns) has new found knowledge into the near-destruction of humanity. Unfortunately, by then, things are spiraling out of control and it's difficult to see a viable resolution.
I really enjoyed the character dynamics DuPrau set up in this novel. With very few exceptions, all of the players were honestly trying to do good. She set up some great conflicts which resulted in each group of people trying to do what was good, and yet that "good" was conflicting and causing tension. It's the old adage "you can't please everyone all the time." There are always self-interests of individuals and even of groups which will collide with other individuals and groups. This book presented great examples of how people interact and shows motivation for making compromises and looking at the situation from the point of view of the other person.
It's difficult to compare to Ember and say which I liked better. I think I preferred Sparks because the plot and dynamic was more interesting to think about. Still, they are each presenting such different concepts, that it's hard to pit one against the other. They are great stories with a lot of thoughtful concepts to ponder. It's actually quite thought provoking, especially when considering the fact that it's a children's book. Children and youth will enjoy the vivid characters and the action. Adults can still enjoy it with its fluid writing and its deeper themes.
4 stars (out of 5)
My biggest complaint about The People of Sparks was that it got a little preachy here and there. "Why can't we all just get along?" "Don't judge what you don't know!" The message was laid on a little thick and it distracted me from the story now and again, but it wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.
I'm having a bit of trouble thinking about things to say about Sparks, but overall, I liked this story. However, like City of Ember, I don't think it has the depth and crossover appeal for an adult audience that some young adult novels do.
RB review is TK...
In this second book, Doon and Lina, and the people who escaped the City of Ember after them, find themselves in the City of Sparks, a post disaster village which reluctantly takes them in for six months. It follows the story of how the People of Sparks and the People of Ember escalate into a conflict over food and livelihood, and finishes with good winning over the evil in the town as a heartwarming finish. Throuhgout this story, Lina and Doon continue to figure prominently in the story, and are part of the final gratifying solution.
This books was fun. Recommended.
Instead of an exciting mystery/adventure story, this is a textbook on why hate and fear lead to war and this is bad.
Lina and Doon are separated, so the story is split, following each of them in turn, Doon as he gets caught with a charismatic leader-figure rallying to people of Ember, Lina as she stows away on a trip to see the closest city. Both of them learn, by demonstration or lectures, that hurting people that hurt you is wrong and can lead to BAD THINGS.
And with all the moralising, there are some odd jarring notes. The people of Ember have a very strong sense of entitlement - if people had taken me in, given me food and a place to stay, and were teaching me how to survive, I'd be a lot more grateful and less concerned about a sense fairness which means they have to give me equal amounts of everything they have.
This had none of the charm of the first book, and was a great deal more didactic.
However, some of the people of Ember, so used to their easy city life feel that they are not being given enough help and are being asked to work too hard for their meals. Resentment rises on both sides. Lina in the meantime takes off to explore what is left of part of a city (most likely San Francisco) destroyed by war and disease.
I found this book very interesting, especially when it came to talk about war. There are characters in this book who where so inconsiderate and rude that it drove me half nuts. But their purpose was to show that just because someone is charismatic, it does not mean they are always right. I enjoyed this sequel even more than the City of Sparks.
The people of Ember have emerged into the light... they are above ground where "it is green and very big and light comes from the sky" - and this is all thanks to Lina and Doonâ€™s wisdom in deciphering the Instructions of Egress left by "The
I have to admit that this story didn't capture me like the first book of Ember did, but yet I still enjoyed it and I found it satisfying in the end. The themes of this book echo the themes of the first book in many ways. You ask yourself - Just what does it take to survive in a new world? How does human kindness or the lack thereof affect and come into play towards the repetition of history?
My favorite quote from the book (and there were many) but this one stood out the most:
"People didn't make life, so they can't destroy it. Even if we were to wipe out every bit of life in the world, we can't touch the place life comes from. Whatever made the plants and animals and people spring up in the first place will always be there, and life will spring up again."
Ms. DuPrau is very good at writing a child's perspective without it seeming overly simplified or unreal. Iâ€™m looking forward to the next installment (The Prophet of Yonwood) - from what I read itâ€™s a pre-quel to the first two books so it should answer some of the niggling loose ends about how this world came to be. Once again, this book was a page turner and I read it in a couple of hours. It is highly recommended no matter what the age.
During a recent discussion with a 6th grade teacher, I was also told that her class are huge fans of the series as well. Recommend for middle school, but adults as well!