A group of seven people wear uniforms and hold various weapons in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.'

If You Love ‘The Hunger Games,’ Add These Books to Your Reading List

In Panem’s dark, authoritarian borders, Suzanne Collins built an arena where the phrase “winner takes all” is taken to horrifying new heights. The Hunger Games series transported us to a future where young people battle not for likes and follows, but for the grand prize of not being dead. 

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This gladiatorial potluck, seasoned with societal critique and garnished with a sprig of romance, depicts a civilization that is radically different from our own but is nevertheless frighteningly plausible. If you enjoyed The Hunger Games series and are seeking other books along the same lines, the following recommendations should satisfy your reading needs

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
(Katherine Tegen Books)

In dystopian Chicago, Divergent slices through the young adult genre like a well-thrown knife, carving out a space where personality quizzes have mortal stakes. Here, society is cleaved into five factions, each a high school clique with its own dress code and moral compass—taken to the extreme. 

Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior, our brave and refreshingly complex protagonist, faces the age-old teen quandary: to fit in or not to fit in, but with a twist—misfitting could be fatal. Roth’s world is one where choosing your faction is akin to the most dangerous of all coming-of-age ceremonies, a bar mitzvah with hand-to-hand combat, a quinceañera with a side of psychological warfare. 

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
(Grand Central Publishing)

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower tosses readers into the deep end of a dystopian future with the subtlety of a brick through a window. Set in the 2020s, where society has unraveled like a poorly-knit sweater, Butler writes a story of survival, spirituality, and seed planting—both literal and metaphorical. 

Our guide through this desiccated landscape is Lauren Olamina, a protagonist with the unique talent of feeling others’ pain. The Parable of the Sower doesn’t just predict the future; it presents a future that feels lived-in, complete with the streaks and worn edges of a reality that’s seen better days. Butler’s foresight might not make you feel cozy about what’s to come, but it will grip you, whispering that adaptation is the only pilgrimage worthy of our species.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
(Delacorte Press)

In James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, we meet Thomas, the newest “greenie,” whose arrival in the Glade is as baffling to him as a Sudoku puzzle to a toddler. The Glade, an agrarian speck surrounded by a colossal maze, is populated by a band of boys who’ve made a sport of forgetting. The Maze, with a flare for the theatrical, delivers a daily puzzle more complex than a Rubik’s Cube—and far more deadly.

Monstrous Grievers guard its ever-changing corridors, as if Dashner has a beef with anyone looking for a quiet stroll. The Maze Runner, with its twisty plot and cliffhanger chapter endings, is the literary equivalent of a reality TV show challenge—equal parts intriguing and infuriating. 

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry
(Thorndike Press)

When it comes to the community in The Giver, its color palette ranges from white to white, with exciting splashes of beige, metaphorically speaking. It’s a world sanitized of pain and strife, where the emotional range of its residents is exceedingly limited.

Here we meet Jonas, a boy whose life changes in the blink of an eye when he’s given the job of Receiver of Memories, the community’s collective hard drive for all things historical and histrionic. As forbidden hues of emotion and sensation bleed into Jonas’s consciousness, Lowry paints a society so safe it’s stifling; so peaceful it’s petrifying. It’s a place where the notion of “sameness” is taken to such an extreme that a rebellious sock choice might as well be a revolutionary act.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
(Anchor Books)

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the Republic of Gilead is as warm and welcoming as a polar bear’s embrace. Margaret Atwood introduces us to a near-future that combines the cheer of a Puritanical sermon with the color scheme of a Soviet-era grocery store. The story follows Offred, which is not her real name but a chilling reminder that she is literally “of Fred,” owned like an exceptionally versatile piece of furniture that can bear children. 

Each Handmaid is just a baby-making machine in this oppressive society born from a surveillance regime and a fertility crisis. Atwood tells the story with all the solemnity of a Sunday service at a particularly gloomy church, yet it’s laced with a wit as dry as the martinis no one in Gilead is allowed to drink. 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies is set in a world where your 16th birthday brings the gift of beauty—packaged, shipped, and surgically delivered, transforming you from a Plain Jane to a Stunning Sue. The protagonist, Tally Youngblood, awaits this rite of passage with the eagerness of a child on Christmas Eve. 

However, Westerfeld doesn’t just hand out society’s version of a pretty face; he throws in a complimentary brain scrub for good measure. The city’s regime has a love for symmetry that would make Pythagoras himself blush, and a suspicion of depth that ensures everyone remains as shallow as a kiddie pool. Tally, teetering on the precipice of this chiseled wonderland, peeks behind the curtain and finds that the price of prettiness might just be her soul.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
(Balzer & Bray/Harperteen)

Dread Nation gives us a world where the dead have the audacity not to stay dead, rising with the inconvenience of an uninvited dinner guest and the persistence of a telemarketer. In this reanimated America, the Battle of Gettysburg is less a turning point in history and more the point where history got turned on its head, literally.

Enter Jane McKeene, who wields etiquette and a sickle with equal aplomb. She’s being educated at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls, which is precisely what it sounds like—if what it sounds like is a finishing school crossed with a boot camp during a zombie apocalypse. Justina Ireland delivers a heroine as quick with a quip as she is with a kick, navigating a society battling both the undead and the all-too-alive specters of racism and inequality.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
(Daw Books)

In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, the post-apocalyptic sands of Africa are as welcoming as a sunbaked sauna and just as likely to leave you altered. The story unfolds in a future Sudan, where technology and magic grind against each other like tectonic plates, and the result is just as earthquake-inducing. 

Onyesonwu—whose name means “Who fears death?”—bears a burden that would make Sisyphus himself say, “Better you than me, kid.” With a prophecy clutched in one hand and her magical abilities in the other, Onyesonwu is as much a shaper of destinies as she is subject to them. Who Fears Death is a genre-defying escapade, painting a vivid picture of a world where the supernatural is as common as dirt and just as dirty. 

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale drops readers onto an island where the curriculum is the only thing more lethal than the students. It’s like Lord of the Flies meets Survivor, and decided to open a school together—albeit one that violates every imaginable health and safety code. In this educational battle zone, a class of Japanese high school students is equipped with random weapons and the kind of life-or-death motivation that makes final exams seem positively cuddly by comparison.

The book’s premise is simple: fight your classmates to the death in a government-mandated melee, where the “winner” gets the grand prize of trauma and a lifetime supply of nightmares. The students, each with a backstory as unique as the weapons they wield, navigate alliances and strategies with the panicked grace of contestants in the world’s most horrifying game show.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
(Candlewick Press MA)

The universe of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go is one in which silence is as rare as a unicorn at a barbecue. In the “New World,” everyone’s inner monologue is broadcast for all to hear, a phenomenon known as Noise that turns private musings into public broadcasts and makes monks of us all—or drives us to distraction. 

Our hero, Todd Hewitt, is the last boy in a town of men whose thoughts swirl around their heads like a swarm of bees, if the bees were also shouting. Todd’s discovery of a pocket of silence in the form of a girl, Viola, is as shocking as finding a whisper in a tornado. 

(featured image: Lionsgate)

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Faith Katunga
Faith is a freelance journalist with an insatiable curiosity for all aspects of current events, from the global economy and fashion to pop culture and travel. She watches an absurd number of cat videos on Instagram when not reading or writing about what is going on in the world. Faith has written for several publications, including We Got This Covered, Italy Magazine, TheTravel, etc., and holds a master's degree in Fashion Culture and Management.