by: Robert Cormier
Ember (Random House) New York, NY 1974, 2002
This is NOT a recommendation. I hated this book (and eventually I’ll tell you why). I am flabbergasted that it made the lists where I found it recommended. After reading this book I wonder if any of the people who write those lists actually read this book or if they just read a good review, and the description, and put it on their list. Even the copyright page has an endnote: “Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.”
This SOUNDS like a good book. The basic summary: “A high school freshman discovers the devastating consequences of refusing to join in the school’s annual fund-raising drive and arousing the wrath of the school bullies.” seems pretty strait forward. I’ll even grant that it is well written. The characters are well developed. The motivation for bullying is clear. Even the demands of being a bully are touched on in the narrative.
However, there is no redemption. The bullies are not just the teenaged boys, but also their teachers. The bullies are not just running the school, they are apparently running the world. The bullies win. The bullies are rewarded. The bullies become successful. The bullies get the promotion and all their “dodgy” behavior is swept under the rug. Give me Lord of the Flies (by William Golding). At least there is some sense of “oh what have we done!” at the end. Here we get bullying is the only way to really get ahead.
Maybe this is the book for our current political climate. Maybe this is the way the world is destined to become. Maybe this is who we are as a race. I can’t abide that. I need to live with a different world view. I need to have teen fiction promote a different world view. I need this to not be okay.
I hate this book. It promotes this bad behavior, this horrible predatory attitude. I can’t recommend it. It may be a good place to start a discussion, but even in that context I don’t like it. I don’t think a book should “require” a book club to be a good read.
I do believe in the first amendment and the right to read. I don’t believe in promoting destructive behavior, and that’s what this book does. It’s not an examination of cruel behavior patterns, it’s a propaganda piece for not “disturbing the universe”.