Young readers might think that no book can follow the enjoyment of reading about Katniss and District 12 in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. The heart-pounding plot, memorable characters and themes about government corruption make the dystopian novel a page-turner from the very start.
Never fret, there are wonderful dystopian (and non-dystopian) books that kids who love The Hunger Games (book series or films!) will want to read.
Although The Hunger Games is usually classified as a dystopian YA (Young Adult) book, I've noticed that the series is widely read by middle schoolers as well. I think it's important to recommend books like The Hunger Games series for both audiences!
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Books like The Hunger Games for Middle Grade Readers
If you liked The Hunger Games... read these next!
The Giver (series) by Lois Lowry
In the Community, life appears to be utopian. But when 12-year-old Jonas is designated the new Receiver of Memories, he can no longer ignore the truth–independence of thought and human connection are more important than perfection. Each book in The Giver quartet takes place in the same world but narrates the lives of different character. Readers will discover the connecting thread of all four stories in the final book. Titles include Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. MG/YA - Ages 10 and up.
The Unwanteds (series) by Lisa McMann
My son loves these books, as well as the companion series, Unwanteds Quest. Kirkus reviews described it as "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." In the totalitarian world of Quill, 13-year-olds are divided into three groups: Wanted, Necessary and Unwanted. Because of his creativity, Alex is deemed an Unwanted and slated for execution, while his identical twin, Aaron is Wanted. But instead of ending up at the Death Farm, Alex enters a magical world where he and others prepare for battle against Quill. MG - Ages 10 and up.
The Mark of the Thief (series) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This incredibly thrilling trilogy is packed full of action and twists behind every corner. Nic and his sister are slaves in mines just outside of Ancient Rome. When Nic discovers an ancient bulla that once belonged to Julius Caesar, the bulla infuses him with a power. He becomes both a target and a pawn in a political conspiracy. This is a excellent selection for kids who like mythology and will appeal to readers who thrive on stories about the take down of sinister government powers. MG/YA - Ages 10 and up.
The Blackthorn Key (series) by Kevin Sands
The Blackthorn Key is historical fiction but will still be enjoyed by readers who thrive on dystopian fiction. It's incredibly suspenseful and action-packed! Christoper, an orphaned apprentice in 17th century London, must solve a complex puzzle surrounding the murders of apothecaries. Despite the seriousness of the plot, the well-drawn characters provide some humor. Ages 10 and up.
The Shadow Cipher (series) by Laura Ruby
In this elaborate story, three friends band together in New York City to solve a cipher that connects their apartment building to a centuries-old mystery of how the city was conceived. This is a hefty, compelling book with stellar writing, and complex, well-rounded characters. Ages 10 and up.
MORE: Books for 13-year-olds
Dystopian YA Books
Before we get into the YA portion of this book list, I'll name a few series titles you'll find so frequently recommended on Hunger Games read alike book lists, I don't feel compelled to give full reviews. Note that some of these are, or will be, films.
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- Uglies by Scott Westerfield
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Legend by Marie Lu
- Matched by Ally Condie
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- Shadow and Bone; and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My older son read this book for school and loved it. He kept telling me how great it was and wanted to make sure I read it, too! Set in 1939 Germany (a real life dystopia!) it tells the tale of Liesel Meminger, who has lost her family comes to Munich to live with a foster family. The story is narrated by Death. A tale set during the horrors of war can't help but be dark, but this novel is a page turner that will have your kids up all night, like it did mine. MG/YA - Ages 12 and up.
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (series) by Phillip Pullman
This is the prequel to Pullman's His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass, etc.), but even if your child hasn't read that series, this one will stand on its own. Malcolm Polstead lives in Oxford and is suspicious of the new order around him. When the baby Lyra (the heroine of The Golden Compass) comes to live in the neighborhood priory, Malcolm's adventures really take off. MG/YA Ages 12 and up.
Delirium (series) by Lauren Oliver
Love is outlawed. In dystopian America, citizens are required to be "cured" at age 18, which renders them free of passion. An authoritarian government forbids contact between members of the opposite sex, rewrites history, and even bans poetry. As she approaches the time for her "cure," Lena meets Alex, who throws her ordered world into chaos. Lauren Oliver has constructed a detailed world that will suck readers in and they will be unable to resist reading the rest of the trilogy. YA - Ages 14 and up.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I loved this book, even though I am not usually a fan of stories about horses. Every autumn the capaill uisc emerge from the sea. Riders battle to capture and train these fierce water horses in preparation for a race on the beach. Puck is about to be the first girl to enter the races with her mare, while Sean, a past winner of the race, hopes to win the right to keep his favorite water horse, Corr. An utterly captivating story. YA - Ages 13 and up.
MORE: Books for 9th Graders
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In the Seven Kingdoms, everyone is born with a Grace. Katsa's grace is killing. She was raised by her uncle to believe that she must use her skills to enforce his will. She becomes friends with Prince Po, and Katsa learns that her Grace might not be what she thought after all. The whole series is fantastic and features strong females. YA - Ages 14 and up.
Scythe (series) by Neal Shusterman
My 14-year-old gobbled up these books, but be warned, it is an intense story. The action takes place in a world where humans have conquered hunger, disease, war and even death. The Scythes are a select group who are commanded to kill, in order to keep the population under control. Now Citra and Rowan are recruited against their will to become Scythes. Each book in the series is huge, but will keep teens reading (and off their phones) well into the night. YA - Ages 14 and up.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
As a biography, rather than a dystopian novel, Turner's story of real-life samurai, Yoshitsnune, is the wild card on this book list. This is a gripping biography, but I won't lie, there are A LOT of people who die unnatural deaths. Minamoto Yoshitsune was a 12th century samurai warrior who, after the murder of his father, grows up amongst the monks at Kurama Temple. With stunning grit and daring ingenuity Yoshitsune eventually becomes a warrior who is both admired and feared. YA - Ages 12 and up.
1984 by George Orwell
How can I make a list of The Hunger Games read alikes without mentioning this classic dystopian novel. Better appreciated by the YA set than the middle grade crowd, this story of how a man starts to think for himself and becomes aware of the control the Party has over society will resonate with teens who will, no doubt, connect the themes of the book to contemporary events. Also available in a graphic novel version. Adult/YA
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Perhaps your teen has been watching the critically acclaimed Hulu series and has yet to read the original tale. Now's the time to put Atwood's chilling tale of Republic of Gilead in their hands. When they are done reading, ask them their thoughts about the story of Offred and her experience in the totalitarian society bent on the oppression and control of women. Also available in a graphic novel version. Adult/YA
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A fireman who is tasked with destroying books starts to question society and the government when a neighbor helps him look beyond propaganda. If you enjoy reading aloud to your teen, I highly recommend this book which will open up all sorts of avenues to conversations about Bradbury's dystopian world versus contemporary society. Ages 14 and up.
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