The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Digital Audiobook narrated by Wendy Dillon
Published by Yearling on May 25, 2004
Series: Book of Ember #2
Genres: Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 338 pages or 7 hours 55 minutes
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Lina and Doon have emerged to the new world above, and it isn't long before they are followed by the other inhabitants of Ember. But the town's resources are limited and it isn't long before resentment begins to grow between the two groups.
Small aside that has nothing to do with the actual book? The People of Sparks is the first sequel that’s come around on my TBR since I rejoined the community in 2017. That means I’ve either read everything added to my TBR before that date… or have been unable to find an audiobook version of those books. EITHER WAY this is a big deal to me, and I’m excited.
When I read The City of Ember back in July 2017, I was pleased and surprised by how much I enjoyed this book intended for middle grade readers. The world building was interesting, and I really liked Lina as a character. Going into The People of Sparks, I quickly remembered where I had left off and also how sweet and wholesome Line was. I’m still a fan of her character. But being perfectly honest, I don’t think The People of Sparks was nearly as good of a book. But Jeanne DuPrau is true to her characters, building exasperating antagonists, justifying everyone’s actions in a realistic way, and remaining consistent. This novel in particular explored justice and survival – humanity versus greed – and the characterization was important. In this way, I think she was very successful.
For me, in part, this is related to the narration. As I mentioned in my review of the previous novel, I found Doon a little annoying, and there were voices used for side characters I really didn’t enjoy. That problem has followed me into the second book. One of our little antagonists, Torrin, had such a grating, whiny voice. It fit well to his personality, but I cringed every time he had dialogue.
Like the first book, the writing itself remains simplistic. This is a middle grade novel with clear lessons and flawed characters and very well developed for the target age group. I have recommended this series to middle grade readers and will continue to do so. Listen, if you’re an adult reading a middle grade novel, you have to expect that the language will appeal more to middle grade readers. Jeanne DuPrau writes to her audience, and in keeping the language simple and direct, the message is clear. I respect the fact she tells such a thorough, morally complicated tale for this age group and it still manages, overall, to appeal to older readers. The writing style may not, but the story certainly does.
Frankly put, the Ember series is a good dystopia. The world building is vivid and feels possible without being too over the top. With The People of Sparks there’s the introduced idea of roamers, which I really enjoyed. I think that Ember was a more interesting city than Sparks, but the chapters that took us out into the wilderness had a feel of desolation and wildness that I wanted to see more.
I personally didn’t enjoy this as much as the first book, but I think the intended audience – children ages 8 to 12 – will enjoy it. I think it would have been a better read for me if it was a physical book, and that’s reflected in the “Narrator” and “Personal Enjoyment” sections of this review (below) but as a general rule, I think it was a successful novel. I’d recommend it to any from of The City of Ember, as well as those interested in dystopia for younger readers. And despite my qualms with the narration and simplicity of the writing, I remain curious, so book three goes on my TBR.