Marie Lu’s revolutionary debut novel Legend jumpstarted her illustrious career in speculative YA. Protagonists June and Day grew up under vastly different circumstances, yet the military prodigy and the rebel from the slums still manage to work together to uncover the harsh truth of their corrupt, war-torn world. If you like stories about near-future societies where characters rely on their wit and inner strength to challenge and rebuild broken systems, here is a list of similar titles to consider.
1. Want, by Cindy Pon
In a future version of Taipei where air pollution is killing the population, only the upper class can purchase the necessary gear to preserve their physical health. Motivated by his mother’s early demise, Jason Zhou seeks to repair the wealth inequality by infiltrating the massive corporation that manufactures the life-saving equipment. However, when Zhou tries to dupe the CEO’s brilliant daughter and falls for her instead, his mission becomes a lot more complicated. Want’s heist elements and ragtag cast of characters makes this a particularly enjoyable read.
2. Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh
In a war-ridden South Korea, ex-gang member and combat academy student Lee Jaewon believes his assignment to a weapons development division is the perfect solution to dispel his tragic past and achieve certain glory. Until he becomes entangled in a forbidden romance with Tera, a genetically engineered soldier trained to pilot deadly God Machines on the battlefield. When he is commanded to spy on Tera, Jaewon must decide where his loyalties lie before war consumes everything. Perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Axie Oh’s Rebel Seoul is sure to pack a punch.
3. Rebelwing, by Andrea Tang
North America has been conglomerated into a new republic that censors any entertainment material not approved by the government. Prudence Wu is a prep school scholar by day and a black-market dealer by night, where she smuggles banned media across the border. When a clandestine meeting goes awry, Pru only escapes with the help of a sentient mecha dragon. Caught up in a rebellion where she now pilots the dragon, Pru joins forces with her fellows to unravel the messy politics of her world. Action-packed with a unique writing voice, Rebelwing possesses similar qualities to the Gundam franchise.
4. Warcross, by Marie Lu
Created by young and handsome billionaire Hideo Tanaka, Warcross is a virtual reality game in which teams must steal their opponent’s artifact. After successfully hacking into their servers for quick cash, Chinese-American bounty hunter Emiko Chen expects to be arrested. Instead, Hideo personally invites her to compete in the national Warcross championship, as long as she agrees to work as an undercover spy. While navigating the high-stakes competition and an unexpected romance, Emiko soon discovers Hideo might actually be hiding something much bigger than the game. Full of the exciting danger embodied in all of Marie Lu’s novels, Warcross is one you can’t miss.
5. This Mortal Coil, by Emily Suvada
Children are injected with nanotechnology at birth to enhance their genetic attributes in This Mortal Coil, but it’s not enough to save them from a raging pandemic and starvation. In a creepy turn of events, the only known protection against the virus is to ingest infected human flesh. After a laboratory explosion kills her geneticist father, Catarina discovers his unfinished work on a vaccine meant to eradicate the virus. However, the powerful and corrupt Cartaxus organisation has been withholding critical health treatments from terrified citizens. Racing against the clock, Catarina must work together with her father’s colleagues to decode his scientific plans before humanity loses its autonomy and succumbs to certain death.
6. The Ones We’re Meant to Find, by Joan He
Celia has been stuck on a deserted island for three years with a lapse in her memory, desperate to find her sister Kasey. Meanwhile, socially awkward Kasey is holed up in a futuristic eco-city as humans continue to destroy the environment, trying to uncover what exactly happened to Celia. But when the truth comes to light, it shatters everything both sisters believed about the world–and each other. With unexpected twists and turns that will blow your mind, The Ones We’re Meant to Find calls into question the dichotomy of romantic and familial bonds.
7. Scythe, by Neal Shusterman
In the future, no one dies until their fate is decided by specific individuals who are designated “scythes.” When Citra and Rowan are enlisted in the scythe apprenticeship program, they are forced to leave their old lives behind and learn compassionate ways to “glean” the population. But not every scythe follows the book of rules, and their new role in society isn’t as honourable as they believed. Scythe is a thrilling novel by the prolific Shusterman that will certainly make you contemplate mortality and corruption.
8. Renegades, by Marissa Meyer
The sole witness of her family’s murder, Nova “Nightmare” Artino blames the superhero council who didn’t intervene. Years later, gifted with the ability to put people to sleep with a single touch, Nova joins the anarchists to wreak havoc on the self-important heroes and their city. To destroy the system from within, Nova enters the Renegades Headquarters as a spy. But fellow hero Adrian makes her heart flutter, even though he’s supposed to be her enemy, and a morally ambivalent entity called the Sentinel thwarts Nova’s plans at every step. Will Nightmare prevail, or will she get caught? Renegades is a riveting read that will have you rooting for the villains.
9. Gearbreakers, by Zoe Hana Mikuta
On one side of the war is a tyrannical ruling state that relies on mecha weaponry to terrorize and destroy. On the other side are the rebels, who work from the inside to take down the oppressors. When Gearbreaker Eris Shindanai gets thrown in prison, she encounters Sona Steelcrest, a pilot from the enemy side. Despite initial distrust, the pair realize they share a common goal. Amidst a budding sapphic romance, Eris and Sona fight to make their cyberpunk world a better place and overthrow the destructive mecha creatures and government who want to crush them in Gearbreakers.
10. Malice, by Pintip Dunn
Alice thinks she’s boring, especially compared to her STEM genius classmates and her extraordinary brother. When a voice in her head–Alice’s future self–expresses that someone in her school is destined to wipe out the population with a virus, she must figure out the identity of the culprit and stop them. To trigger the necessary changes, Alice follows strange instructions from her future self, including confessing her love to the most popular guy in school. Time travel elements and a sweet romance accompany Alice through her journey to change the future in Malice.
11. Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao
In Iron Widow’s sci-fi universe, male pilots and their female “concubines” pair up to control giant Chrysalis robots in battle, but the required psychic power usually leaves the women dead. To take revenge against the pilot who killed her sister, broken and beaten Zetian signs up as a concubine-pilot, and ends up killing the man in the cockpit through their psychic bond. As a revered Iron Widow, Zetian is forced to pair up with the most dangerous male pilot to control her newfound ability. Together, they rely on their substantial power and fame to dismantle the misogynistic system. With a polyamorous love triangle and strong feminist themes, Zhao’s highly anticipated debut novel certainly makes a splash.