I read this no later than 1995, but it could be from much much earlier, maybe the 70s or 80s. I thought it was called "the wall" but it's hard to search.

It was set in post-apocalypse. The earth was no longer breathable so people lived inside a giant wall, with machines called "breathers" to clean the air, and moving sidewalks that no longer worked. The main character was a girl.

At the end of the book she goes outside the wall and the earth has actually healed itself. She might have gotten out with some sort of pied piper character.

Additional aspects (added after finding the book): all the adults have died of a fever, the kids are divided into "littles" and "bigs", the main character is Kristie and her older brother Lew, the kids live in gangs called "crowds" and survive by looting what's left of the city, but food is getting more scarce, the machines have broken down and they don't know how to fix them, and the water seems to be running out, there is a "rhyming man" that leads kids out of the city, the earth outside the dome has healed itself.

  • A similar book was made into a move recently called The Maze Runner, which is probably what the other person was referring to. However, it's a recent book as well as a film, and doesn't meet your time criteria. There was also a very recent film called "The Wall" – user31178 Jul 14 '15 at 19:23

Outside by Andre Norton?

"Child survivors of some ecological disaster who live inside a sealed off dome city where the life support machinery is running down . . . Andre Norton takes this premise, surely as old as sci fi itself, and finds a new solution aptly suited to the child readers this is intended for. Kristie, no longer one of the really little kids, but still young enough to be attached to her pet fox, is one of the young ones lured away by a Pied Piper known as Rhyming Man. And, following his trail of nursery rhymes and his motto, "Believing's Seeing," she finds herself led to the world outside the dome, now livable again. She also discovers that she has acquired the power of telepathy, and sets out to communicate the secret of escape to her big brother Lew. Anyone who knows his way around the genre will find this thin stuff, but the Rhyming Man is clever enough to lure those on the cusp between fairytales and sci fi. (Kirkus Reviews)

  • Hmm... I'm not sure. It's the breathers that will clinch it. I'm getting the book to check it out... thanks for the lead! This is a 15 year mystery for me! – elizabeth Jul 14 '15 at 20:50
  • OP has indicated that this is the correct answer – Valorum Jul 19 '15 at 7:35

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