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Dystopian future novels have been very popular the last several years with the Hunger Games and Divergent among the front runners (read my review of Divergent). These types of novels hold an immense appeal. They feel more realistic than straight out fantasy. They also tend to provide the lead character, with whom the reader will inwardly identify herself, with enormous opportunity for heroism.

This heroism, indeed, is something we want to see our children identify with and strive toward. Yet I believe placing the Hunger Games or Divergent in the hands of a child younger than high school (at least) is ill-advised. The mature themes and lack of a fully-resolved “happy ending” are things that younger readers are not ready to deal with in their more limited, black-and-white-tending worldview.

If your child is eager to join the dystopian future craze, or you are ready to share your own love of this genera with them, consider this option instead.

The City of Ember (click below to read a short summary. It contains spoilers. You have been warned!)

City of Ember short summary (Spoiler alert!)

The City of Ember takes place sometime in the future after a great disaster has occurred. The Builders foresaw this catastrophe and built the City of Ember underground with all the things necessary for survival until it should be safe to reemerge. However, the instructions were lost, and now the city seems on the edge of ruin. It is up to two children to find a way out and save their city. What the people of the city as well as the reader do not know is that Ember is underground. (Yes, my kids really were surprised to learn this near the end of the book as their daddy read it aloud to them).

The kids are heroic, mostly respectful, and very much try to do the right thing. There are both a boy and a girl hero and heroine, so this book appeals to both genders. There is no love story between the main characters (at lease in book one, I have not completed the series).

You may want to be aware as a parent that the girl’s grandmother, who is her only guardian, dies in the story, which may be very difficult for sensitive or younger children to deal with.

The ending is happy (good wins!), which I believe is very important in forming the world views of younger children. I believe this book would be appropriate for kids 3rd grade through middle school. Our family enjoyed it as a read aloud with our second and fourth grader, and we have now begun the second book, The People of Spark. There are a total of four books in this series.

Has your child enjoyed any dystopian future novels?

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