My readercrush on Jeanne DuPrau has only grown with the second book in the Ember series, THE PEOPLE OF SPARKS. In a world recovering from apocalyptic war and disease, how will a small town which has only just begun to prosper respond to an unexpected influx of refugees? Both story and style are clear, direct and unshowy: every step follows simply and seamlessly from the last. (Speaking to DuPrau’s background as a technical writer perhaps?) Before you know it you’re looking at a rich and nuanced picture of conflict–over resource and identity intertwined–where group belonging is both necessary and dangerous.
“Doon felt frozen. All he could think was, He’s right. Of course he’s right. But we’re right, too.”
The book is 100% adventure story and at the same time unapologetically morally serious. I would call it an illustrative introduction to sectarianism but that makes it sound boring, and it isn’t. DuPrau never flinches from consequence, but she also presents a meaningful picture of hope. And like Byatt she feels in her bones the irreplaceable romance, the great humanist sacredness, of work, every kind of real work. I read the book aloud to kiddo and my voice cracked with tears toward the end. Lucky for me, there’s a third book.