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Jeanne DuPrau – The Prophet of Yonwood

August 31, 2008

107. The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau (2006)
Books of Ember, Book 3 (but really a stand-alone prequel)

Read my review of:
– Book 1, The City of Ember
– Book 2, The People of Sparks

Length: 289 pages

Genre: Young Adult with a slightly sci-fi flavor

Started: 30 August 2008
Finished: 31 August 2008

Summary: The Prophet of Yonwood is a prequel to the rest of the Books of Ember, set approximately fifty years before the Disaster… and seemingly only a few years into our future. Eleven-year-old Nickie is traveling with her aunt to Yonwood, North Carolina, to sell her great-grandfather’s house. She’s glad to be getting away from the city, where her mother is depressed, her father is off working on a top-secret government project, and the grim prospects of war loom larger ever day. But Yonwood is not the idyllic town Nickie is hoping for. Its citizens are in the grip of a religious fervor, brought about by a vision of one of their neighbors of a horrible, fiery, war-torn future. After this vision, the Prophet fell into a near-catatonic state, with her mumblings being interpreted as the will of God, and under the direction of Mrs. Beeson, the Prophet’s interpreter, the town is on a quest to stamp out evil. Nickie wants to help make the world a better place, but is Mrs. Beeson really going about it the right way?

Review: Although this is listed as number three in the Books of Ember series, it’s really more of a stand-alone. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend reading it first, but while it’s set in the same world/timeline as the other Ember books, the connections to the post-apocalyptic far-future books are at the same time somewhat tenuous and yet predictable just from looking at the back cover. Most of the book is concerned with Nickie’s time in the small town of Yonwood, and it only makes the connections to the other books in the last chapter. So, readers eager for more of Lina and Doon’s story are likely to find this book a bit of a disappointment.

Taking this story on its own merits, though, it’s fairly good (although not quite up to the first two books). DuPrau’s got a knack for taking really touchy and potentially contentious issues (in this case, fear, terrorism, religion, the search for the will of God, and the fallibility of human interpretation of the divine) and approaching them logically, level-headedly, and in a way that will be accessible to her younger readers without sugar-coating or dumbing them down. Her message may come across as a little bit blunt to older readers, but I certainly appreciate that it’s a non-treacly and fairly mature treatment of an issue that doesn’t always get a lot of play in middle-grade lit. Apart from that, however, this book loses a little bit due to a slightly meandering plot and a few extraneous subplots and loose ends that weren’t really tied up satisfactorily. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Still an interesting and fast-reading story, but not quite as good as its predecessors, and overall it just left me eager to get back to the “real” story of Lina and Doon in the post-Disaster world.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Jeanne DuPrau’s website

Other Reviews: A Wrung Sponge, BookNerd, Becky’s Book Reviews

First Line: On a warm July afternoon in the town of Yonwood, North Carolina, a woman named Althea Tower went out to her backyard to fill the bird feeder.

Other Thoughts: I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the cover designs for this whole series… Simple, striking graphics that perfectly capture the feel of each of the books.

It did drive me a little bit crazy reading a book with a main character whose name was so close to my own. I’m a Nicki, and so seeing “Nickie” a few times per page was very strange – my eye kept going towards it unbidden, which made it a little hard to actually physically read, plus I kept wanting to get out a bottle of white-out and correct the spelling. That’s never happened to me before, probably because the -cki ending is by far the less-common variant of the name, and it’s not a name that I’ve seen commonly used in fiction anyways, so seeing it in print just threw me. Has anyone else had this kind of reaction? Does everyone think it’s weird to see their name in a book, or just those of us with less-common names? Jennifers and Sarahs of the world – how do you deal?

Also, I could have done without this:

“Nickie never used her real name, Nicole. It was a pretty name, she thought, but it felt too pretty for her […]. She considered herself a smart person with a good imagination but sort of ordinary-looking, and so Nickie felt like a better name.” (p. 50)

Hey! I resent that! Hrmph. :)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2008 8:47 pm

    I just finished rereading City of Ember and finally getting to People of Sparks and the Prophet of Yonwood this week (I loaned the first one to my cousins like 2 years ago and I wanted to reread it before going on to 2 and 3)…
    Kind of a coincidence that you just posted these reviews very recently, I feel that they were pretty spot on and they made me discover this blog (which is very nice :) )…

  2. August 31, 2008 10:09 pm

    Andrea – Thanks, and welcome! It looks like the timing worked out for both of us… you finding reviews when you were looking for them, and me starting the series by chance right before the fourth book was published!

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