The People of Sparks
by Jeanne DuPrau
I am a little disappointed by this series, still, but only because I feel like I have to compare it to the Hunger Games series. That isn't fair, since they're very different, but I am reading them at the same time so the two inevitably get compared in my head.
On its own, I did really enjoy this continuation of the story of Lina, Doon, their families, and their world. This one starts almost exactly where the last book ends, as the residents of Ember get taken in by a nearby village. This causes hardship on the villagers and there are such huge differences in both groups of people that it seems everyone wishes they had never come up from underground (but given that Ember was dying, there was no going back).
The book centers around the problems that arise from the presence of the Emberites in the village, and goes off on a more personal level to address some specific people with whom our main characters have the most contact. There's a boy who hates sharing his house with these newcomers, an Emberite who feels the need to gather followers and take what he feels they deserve, a council that's trying to be kind but still look out for its own people, etc.
On top of that, Lina and Doon grow distant. They weren't exactly friends before the first book, but they went through so much together then, so it's tough to know how much they can rely on each other now (and given that they're living in different places, they have even less contact than they could). Even when they're finally honest with each other, there are times you wonder how there will ever be a realistic, fair solution for each party. And that's what's interesting. You're obviously on the Emberbites' side here, but you are still made to see that the other village is in a tough place as well.
The whole thing comes to a head and the result is extremely predictable. And, yet, it's still enjoyable and satisfying. I didn't like it as much as the first (or as much as Hunger Games) but I still really enjoyed knowing what happens next for the characters here. It was the perfect book to earread in one day from start to finish on a drive from Florida to Virginia. It addresses a lot of interesting social problems in an accessible way. Oh, and I especially liked the song/rhyme that accompanied the "treasure hunt" in this story. Very catchy and sweet and difficult to forget :-)