Gr 7 Up-In his short life, Mark has seen sun flares that killed millions, including his family and beloved younger sister. Afterward, floods, food shortages, and continued devastating heat, along with individuals bent on surviving at all costs, have made his chances pretty bleak. Against all odds, he and a close-knit group of other survivors move inland and set up a community together. But before long, a flying ship brings something wholly unfamiliar: a disease, transmitted initially by darts, but soon spread person to person at an alarming rate. Mark's friends all work together to figure out what this illness is, how it spreads, and why it drives people mad, while trying to hold onto hope for themselves and save others. A prequel to the "Maze Runner" series (Delacorte), this story does indeed show how the world started to fall apart prior to Thomas's time in the Maze. However, Thomas's and Teresa's stories are contained to the prologue and epilogue, so readers hoping for information about how WICKED began will be disappointed. Dashner achieves a high level of emotional involvement for readers in this prequel. Mark knew and loved his family, which makes him a more relatable character than memory-challenged Thomas. The action is nonstop, although a little unrealistic at times, and Mark seems wise beyond his years. This novel works well as a stand-alone.-Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.