Reading The Hunger Games for the first time, I was utterly sucked into the story, unwilling to put the book down for longer than absolutely necessary. This book resonated with millions of readers from the get-go and helped spark a boom in young adult dystopian fiction. The story follows Katniss Everdeen who volunteers in place of her sister to participate in the Hunger Games. This is a televised annual tournament with one winner—and one survivor. If you loved The Hunger Games for its strong, capable heroine, its cutthroat competition, or its depiction of a rigidly hierarchical dystopian society, this list will offer your next favorite read.
1. Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
An example of YA dystopian fiction that predates The Hunger Games, Uglies is about a society in which everyone has significant cosmetic surgery to make them Pretty at the age of 16. All of Tally’s friends have already undergone the operation and moved to New Pretty Town, leaving her, the youngest, behind. She dreads spending a long, boring summer waiting for her sixteenth birthday, until she meets Shay. She and Shay strike up a friendship while they wait for their birthdays—but Shay isn’t so sure she wants to become Pretty at all. Shay has heard about a group of people who live in the wilderness and choose to remain Ugly forever. When Shay disappears, Tally must track her down, or else lose the chance to ever become Pretty. Fans of The Hunger Games will enjoy uncovering the secrets behind this society’s Pretty facade and watching Tally choose between the life that was designed for her and the one she imagines for herself.
2. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Like Panem, the society in Divergent is divided into sub-sections. Instead of districts based on geography and industry, the story’s post-apocalyptic Chicago is split into Factions based on values and social roles. Beatrice Prior has grown up in Abnegation, but when she takes the test that will determine which faction suits her best, her results are inconclusive. She displays an affinity with three factions, making her Divergent, a fact she must keep secret. Beatrice chooses her faction and begins to explore her identity (and a potential romance) while trying to survive initiation and hide her Divergence. However, sinister plans behind the scenes threaten to shake her understanding of the faction system and change her world forever.
3. Matched, by Ally Condie
In The Society, every citizen is assigned their ideal life partner—Matched—at the age of 17. At first, Cassia is thrilled to be Matched with her best friend Xander; it’s very rare to be Matched with someone you know. However, when she seeks out more information about her Match with Xander, she sees the face of another boy instead: Ky, who also lives in her community. Despite the insistence of Society officials that Ky’s appearance was a glitch and her true Match is Xander, Cassia is curious about Ky and increasingly frustrated by The Society’s control over her career, her relationships, and her life. Like The Hunger Games, Matched features a protagonist who will risk everything for those she cares about.
4. Delirium, by Lauren Oliver
Love is a dangerous disease, and it will plunge society into chaos if allowed to spread unchecked. That’s what Lena Holloway has always believed. She knows that love ruined her mother’s life, so she’s eager to receive the mandatory “cure” that will prevent her from feeling love for anyone—family, friend, or partner—ever again. But all of that changes when she meets Alex, a boy from the outskirts of society, and begins to fall. Delirium is a romantic dystopian novel that follows a teenager discovering beauty, dreams, and love in a society where these things are the most dangerous contraband.
5. The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Thomas wakes up in an elevator, surrounded by other boys, with no memory of how he got there or who he was before. They emerge into the Glade, where they find another group of boys—no grownups, and no girls—attempting to eke out an existence on the edge of an enormous, constantly shifting, monster-filled maze. But one day, the elevator returns with a girl inside, and she carries a message—one that will drive them to seek out the truth of the maze. Plot-driven and action-packed, The Maze Runner will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
6. Legend, by Marie Lu
In a fragmented United States 100 years in the future, the West Coast is now the Republic, rocked by natural disasters and plagues and perpetually at war with what was once the other half of the country. Our story follows June, the daughter of an elite family, who is expected to climb to the highest ranks of the military, and Day, who hails from the slums and is a notorious criminal. There’s no reason the two of them should ever meet—until June’s brother is murdered and Day is named the prime suspect. Desperate for vengeance, June sets off on a mission to hunt Day down. But all is not as it seems in the Republic, and Day and June may be about to uncover its dark secrets. Full of chases, fight sequences, and narrow escapes, Legend will keep you turning the pages.
7. The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton
In Orleans, everyone is born colorless and drab, with gray skin and red eyes. Everyone except the Belles, who are naturally beautiful and able to wield magic called Arcana to make others beautiful as well. This book begins with protagonist Camellia and her fellow Belles embroiled in a high-stakes competition to be named the kingdom’s favorite and serve in the royal palace, an honor they have all dreamed of since birth. As she vies for position, Camellia sees beneath the kingdom’s glittering surface and learns terrible secrets about the royal court and her own power.
8. Furyborn, by Claire Legrand
Two queens are prophesied to rise: one will be a queen of light, the other a queen of blood. Furyborn follows both, though no one knows which will be which. This book’s two timelines, set 1,000 years apart, follow one girl growing into a hero and the other becoming a villain. This is a high fantasy book rather than a dystopian novel. However, it contains a series of seven magical trials that one protagonist must endure. These trials, designed by the kingdom’s elemental mages, provide thrilling action scenes and will appeal to those who loved learning about the Arena in The Hunger Games. The other protagonist, a bounty hunter gifted with magically quick healing, reminded me of Katniss as she worked to uncover the dark secrets of her world.
9. Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
If your favorite part of The Hunger Games was Katniss, Graceling will be a great pick for you. In the Seven Kingdoms, some people are Graced, born with different-colored eyes and superhuman prowess in a particular skill. Some are Graced with cooking, singing, or swimming, but Katsa is Graced with killing. Forced to work as an assassin and enforcer for her uncle, the king, Katsa dreads harming others and hates herself for her gift. This feminist YA fantasy features a strong, pragmatic protagonist, scenes of combat and survival in a harsh environment, and thematic explorations of truth, lies, autonomy, and power.
10. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, by Roseanne A. Brown
When Malik’s younger sister Nadia is abducted, he strikes a dangerous bargain in a bid to get her back–he must enter the festival competition and kill crown princess Karina. Karina’s mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; she is heartbroken, and her court threatens to rebel against her. Karina would do anything to bring her mother back, but the price required by the old magic is the beating heart of a king. Karina thinks she knows how to get one: marry whoever wins the competition. Malik and Karina are about to collide, and the consequences could be deadly. In addition to the contest element, this West African–inspired fantasy novel includes a romance between a soft boy and a fierce girl, perfect for those who rooted for Katniss and Peeta.
11. Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake
In each generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born, each with their own magical power and a claim to the crown. Mirabella is an elemental, a mistress of fire and storms. Katharine is a poisoner, immune to the deadliest venom. Arsinoe is a naturalist, at one with plants and animals. Only one of them can become queen… the other two must die. Three Dark Crowns is the beginning of a trilogy that will follow these sisters battling each other for the throne. The battle does not begin in earnest until the end of the first book, but The Hunger Games fans will enjoy the sisters’ training, scheming, and budding romances as they prepare for the Ascension Year to begin.
12. Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn
After her mother’s death, 16-year-old Bree just wants to escape, and the early college program at UNC–Chapel Hill looks like the perfect opportunity. That is, until Bree witnesses a monster attack her first night on campus. Suddenly she’s learning about things that definitely weren’t on the syllabus: a secret society of students that hunt these creatures, her own emerging powers, and even the night of her mother’s death. To investigate further, Bree dives into this realm of magic and secrets headfirst, entering a dangerous magical tournament in an attempt to join the society of the Legendborn. Featuring a love triangle, a magical competition, and a young woman forging her own path in a fantastical setting, Legendborn will captivate you.
13. Blazewrath Games, by Amparo Ortiz
This is a high-stakes international tournament, but with dragons. Lana’s dream has always been to represent Puerto Rico in the Blazewrath World Cup, an international competition where teams of dragons and their riders strive for glory as they play the dangerous magical sport. And it looks like she might actually have a chance when Puerto Rico’s team is suddenly short a player just a few weeks before the competition. But the safety of the Cup is jeopardized by two powerful enemies. A former star player and a dragon trapped in human form are wreaking havoc and burning dragon sanctuaries—and they won’t stop unless the World Cup is cancelled. Lana just wants to compete, but she is soon pulled into a conspiracy that challenges her understanding of the sport she loves and the world she thought she knew. Blazewrath Games is full of action-packed in-game scenes, detailed worldbuilding, and of course, a whole lot of dragons.
14. The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett
Young women have a powerful magic within them, magic that bewitches men and fills other women with jealousy and rage. That’s why the girls of Garner County spend their sixteenth year exiled to the woods, where they struggle to survive the elements and evade the poachers who stalk them, hoping to sell their bodies prized for their powerful magic. Tierney doesn’t believe in the magic, but the other girls do. As they turn against each other, the line between belief and reality becomes more and more blurred. Like The Hunger Games, The Grace Year features a harsh environment, a rigidly structured society, and a heroine who does her best to triumph over both.