What is it called when you try to suspend disbelief, but whatever you're suspending it with just isn't strong enough, and disbelief keeps crashing down on your head?
That was my feeling about Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember, especially the premise that the citizens of the City of Ember have, over the centuries, forgotten the secrets of electricity. Electric lights make the place work, and they know how to fix plumbing (or "pipeworks"), but they can't figure out electricity. Maybe I've watched too many home improvement shows, or maybe I just married a spouse whose astounding technical competency causes electrically powered machines to, apparently, fix themselves in his presence... whatever the reason, I just couldn't buy this one. And the ending is just the setup for the sequel, which always bugs me.
Still, Lina and Doon are fine 12-year-old heroes. The best part is the opening, when Lina and Doon swap the jobs to which they are assigned, just after everyone in their class is assigned their first 3-year stint at various jobs in the city. I did enjoy watching them unravel the secret message which allows them to, ultimately, save their city, but the journey out of the city is somewhat anti-climatic, especially when the warning about the "rapids" (which the reader understands, but the characters do not) is dealt with by a mildly bumpy boat ride. Though I couldn't buy that electricity was used daily and yet forgotten (while plumbing was remembered), I did like the other lost concepts, like "heaven" and "boat" and other familiar-to-us words. And this is the sunniest post-apocalyptic story I've read in a long time, picking up just at the point where humans did survive and can now reinhabit the earth. So, if the electricity thing doesn't bother the heck out of you, this might be worth a read. I was glad I tried it, but I doubt I'll read the second one.