It may seem like an oxymoron to call this middle reader title a sweet little dystopian novel, but that's what it is. This first in a series of four introduces Ember, an underground city developed and populated in the face of potential holocaust to safeguard a tiny fraction of the human race. In this it is reminiscent of Mordechai Roshwald's classic Level 7. Unlike Roshwald's tragic Officer X-127, DuPrau's Lina is a young adolescent with a community, a job, and relationships. Here the threat to the underground safe house is not related to the war but to the failure of the physical infrastructure. The actions of a greedy leader several generations before led to the misplacing and later mangling of the revelatory document that would have explained events and provided egress instructions to the denizens of Ember. Lina and Doon, a boy about her age, discover evidence of more greed and misuse of power, while also following clues that may save themselves and their community.A theme that is present in at least the first three books but not elaborated upon is that small-scale individual greed, corruption, or suspicion of others may have dire consequences for large numbers of people.