16 Dystopian Books to Read If You Couldn't Put Down "The Hunger Games"
There will always be a soft spot in our hearts for Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in Lionsgate's film adaptation of "The Hunger Games," but we definitely shouldn't forget about Suzanne Collins's dystopian novel that started the entire franchise. It's a page-turner of a book about the society of Panem, where teenagers called tributes are forced to enlist in a high-stakes televised fight to the death called the Hunger Games.
While it might be overlooked as a young-adult series, "The Hunger Games" actually discusses important themes like inequality and consumerism that are more relevant today than you may think. It also features Katniss Everdeen as its protagonist, a strong female character who is as tough as she is vulnerable, something many readers (and viewers) have come to appreciate. And now that a Hunger Games prequel movie is officially on the way, based on Collins's novel "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," it's time to dive back into the world of Panem — this time, for the origin story of the infamous villain Coriolanus Snow, before he became President Snow.
So if you're someone who appreciates Collins's dystopian themes and characters and can't wait for her next movie adaptation to arrive, you'll find the following books to be equally as entertaining and enlightening — from dystopian teen series like "Divergent" to classroom classics like "Lord of the Flies."
Read ahead for our collection of books like "The Hunger Games."
"Ready Player One"
"Ready Player One" ($11, originally $18)
Ernest Cline's dystopian sci-fi novel takes place in the year 2045, where the world is a very bleak place, much like "The Hunger Games"'s Panem. Climate change has brought on a global energy crisis, and poverty, famine, disease, and war plague every nation. So the only place humanity can escape reality is in Oasis, a vast virtual-reality universe where protagonist Wade Watts is on the hunt for an Easter egg. But his search soon turns into a race to survive when the creator of the game dies and leaves behind a series of fiendish puzzles to solve so one person can inherit his fortune — which includes total control of Oasis.
"Leave the World Behind"
"Leave the World Behind" ($13, originally $17)
Regarded as a rich contribution to dystopian literature, Rumaan Alam's novel is a suspenseful story that examines two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together during a long weekend that goes terribly wrong. The novel, similar to "The Hunger Games," is a soon-to-be film adaptation about race and class that also explores the way bonds are formed (and reshaped) during hard times.
"A Wish in the Dark"
"A Wish in the Dark" ($9)
Christina Soontornvat's kids' novel revolves around privilege, protest, and justice — everything that made "The Hunger Games" the dystopian success it is. The book follows two young people, a boy on the run and a girl set on finding him, from different social classes, both on a journey to seek out truth and righteousness.
"The Electric Kingdom"
"The Electric Kingdom" ($12)
Written by David Arnold, the postapocalyptic, genre-bending tale falls in between "The Walking Dead" and "The Phantom Tollbooth." After the deadly Fly Flu virus sweeps the globe, a small group of survivors are left behind to search for a mythical portal and tasked with finding life and love in a world that's now a shell of its former self. Fans of "The Hunger Games" might particularly enjoy the story of survival and hope.
"1984" ($9, originally $17)
George Orwell's novel is one of the most seminal books in the dystopian genre. The book's story takes place in a society in which Big Brother watches your each and every move and the government bans all individuality, similar to "The Hunger Games." The main character, Winston, breaks the law by recording his thoughts in a diary and developing a relationship with a woman named Julia.
"The Handmaid's Tale"
"The Handmaid's Tale" ($10, originally $16)
Admittedly, this book is a hair more suited for adults than "The Hunger Games." Margaret Atwood's critically acclaimed novel follows the experiences of Offred, a woman who's forced to become a child-bearer in the fundamentalist theocracy of Gilead. While the novels are based on vastly different premises, "The Hunger Games" and "The Handmaid's Tale" both have smart, resourceful women leads who are critical of their society's values.
"Lord of the Flies"
"Lord of the Flies" ($6, originally $11)
William Golding examines the notion of survival of the fittest in this classic novel. The book zeroes in on a group of young English boys who try to govern themselves on an island after surviving a plane crash. Like "The Hunger Games," "Lord of the Flies" fleshes out the relationship between the individual and the mob.
"Matched" ($8, originally $13)
Exploring the theme of free will, Ally Condie's book is a little bit like "Black Mirror" meets "The Hunger Games." At 17, people are matched with their life partners. Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander but discovers that she's been wrongly paired after reviewing her information. Her true match turns out to have secrets of his own that are deeply related to the matching system.
"Feed" ($9, originally $10)
Much like "The Hunger Games," this novel leverages critical commentary about consumerism and environmental destruction. In M.T. Anderson's world, there's a computer network linked to the brains of the majority of Americans through a feed. While it allows people to customize their experiences, it also contributes to a world where corporations have the most power and consumerism and ecological decay run rampant.
"The City of Ember"
"The City of Ember" ($9)
Jeanne DuPrau, like Suzanne Collins, crafts a story about courage and survival in this novel. In the book, a group of architects, scientists, and doctors build Ember, an underground city with enough resources for its people to survive for 200 years. Almost 250 years later, there's a shortage of supplies, and two young members try to figure out a way to save the city.
"Fahrenheit 451" ($8, originally $17)
Ray Bradbury's literary masterpiece, like Suzanne Collins's contemporary teen novel, features a protagonist who challenges the values upheld by their society. The main character of the book, Guy Montag, works as a fireman who burns books in a society where books are banned, only to later become disconcerted by the consequences of his work. Besides Bradbury's novel, it's also worth checking out the HBO film adaptation of the book, which stars Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.
"The Maze Runner"
"The Maze Runner" ($10, originally $11)
If you're shopping around for teen dystopian books, be sure to pick up James Dashner's young-adult sci-fi novel. In it, a young teenager named Thomas wakes up with no memories, surrounded by strangers in the same predicament. They're all in the Glade, a neverending maze with four-mile-high walls that are always changing. Then comes Tessa, the first girl to enter the maze, with a horrifying message: "Remember. Survive. Run."
"Gregor the Overlander"
"Gregor the Overlander" ($6, originally $9)
Before "The Hunger Games," Suzanne Collins wrote this other widely adored book. The series shares elements of the drastic with its sibling series. Centering on the adventures of a boy named Gregor, it's about the Underland, a world underneath New York City that's inhabited by both humans and giant animals. Like The Hunger Games, it explores serious political themes like war and genocide.
"Trickster's Choice" ($10, originally $11)
Tamora Pierce might just be the queen of fantasy young-adult novels. Her novel takes place in the Copper Isles, which are ruled by an incompetent king with hedonistic and power-hungry heirs. It's a society where lighter-skinned populations hold more power. The book's lead, Aly, is an aspiring spy. When she leaves home, she gets captured by pirates, becomes enslaved, and fights to survive within society's values.
"Uglies" ($8, originally $13)
In this novel, Scott Westerfeld imagines a nightmarish society where beauty is the only thing that matters. Tally Youngblood lives in a postapocalyptic future world where teens, upon turning 16, receive a surgical procedure that makes them a "Pretty." Tally learns that the government nefariously uses these surgeries to brainwash its citizens to make them easier to control. Westerfeld's series also tells a coming-of-age story about a young woman protagonist, much like "The Hunger Games."
"Divergent" ($9, originally $15)
"Divergent" is another book series, like "The Hunger Games," that was turned into a film franchise. Penned by Veronica Roth, the book takes place in a postapocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into five factions based on their personalities and values. The trilogy focuses on the experiences of Tris Prior, who lives in the "brave" faction, where inhabitants undergo a harsh initiation process. Tris, the female protagonist with a whole lot of gumption, has a secret, though. She learns that she's actually a Divergent, someone who will never fit into any of the factions and could be forced into poverty if anyone finds out about her status.