The Hunger Games is a well-known and well-loved book published over 10 years ago in 2008. This was one of the first of many action-packed adventures starring a daring female lead. The Hunger Games is full of energy, suspense and it keeps you on your toes, uncertain of what will happen in the arena next. Each book in this collection is similar, but some will push your comfort zone. Who knows, you might find a new type of book to love.
Since The Hunger Games was written for a Teen and Young Adult audience, all my recommendations are for that age group. I have personally read all of these books. Half of them don’t have a review for parents, but that will be rectified.
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In this dystopian society, everyone chooses one of five factions. Each faction values one particular trait – Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amnity (peace), and Erudite (intelligence). On a specific day every year, all the sixteen-year-olds choose which faction they will be a part of for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior has a choice between staying with her family or being her true self. Her choice surprises everyone, including herself. Next comes the competitive initiation where newly names Tris discovers who her real friends are and figure out a budding romance with an infuriating boy. But Tris has a secret. A secret that might kill her if others find out. When conflict arises between the factions, Tris learns her secret could help her save her loved ones or end her.
Divergent is a science fiction dystopian novel with a dash of romance and a whole lot of action. This book and series is the perfect thing after reading The Hunger Games. It is for grades 7-12. Overall this book is PG-13 but towards the upper end due to the war scenes at the end. There is some content so make sure to check out the full review.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Jacob’s grandfather showed him pictures and told him stories about an orphanage on a remote island in Whales before his tragic death. After the murder of his grandfather, Jacob travels to the island to find the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he continues to explore the abandoned home, he discovers that the children may be more than just a bit peculiar, and they may still be alive.
This story will bring you into a new world with a whole new set of rules. The cover makes it appear more dark and mysterious than it is, although there is still quite a bit of that happening too. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a unique blend of historical fiction, horror, mystery, suspense, and science fiction. It is for grades 7-12. There is no adult content. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of language. Not too terrible (PG-13) but still quite a bit.
3. Mistborn: The Final Empire
The Final Empire takes place in a fantasy world. They have been ruled by a tyrant emperor for over a thousand years. Since his rise, the sun hasn’t been seen. Ash constantly falls from the sky, and food is hard to come by. An Allomancer (someone who can use metal magic) and his apprentice decide to pull a fast one on the society they are bent on bringing down. They pretend to be nobility to sneak into high society, and Vin has to learn the in’s and out’s of being a lady. Their goal: to restore justice and bring back the sun.
Vin is our leading lady in this book. The whole broken system and the overthrow of the government vibes, along with plenty of action, make this book similar to The Hunger Games. Vin is the secret weapon that will help them overthrow the Emperor, but she must learn how to play nice. The Final Empire is the first book of the Mistborn series. This is a solid PG-13 book due to the violence and language used by certain characters. It is for Grades 7+. Check out my review for more about The Final Empire.
4. An Enchantment of Ravens
This is an incredibly original story and a fresh read. Isobel is an incredible portrait artist with dangerous clients. Most of her clients are fair folk who can’t create anything on their own, so they crave her craft. While making her first royal commission, she makes a terrible mistake. She painted Prince Rook with a weakness that could cost him his life. To make it right, she travels into the land of the fae with the Prince.
This isn’t an instant love story, but it will keep you on your toes and engaged. An Enchantment of Ravens breathes new life into the world of fantasy and left me enchanted. It is for readers grades 7 and up. There are some high adrenaline chase scenes and a few intense kissing scenes.
5. The Thief
Gen is a thief who can steal anything. When the King’s scholar, the Magus, finds out, he rescues Gen from prison to go on a secret mission. They are off to steal an ancient treasure guarded by the Gods. But, there is a catch. Gen doesn’t believe in the Gods, so how can he steal from them? This book is a masterpiece mixture of fantasy and epic journey.
Gen, like Katniss, faces unbeatable odds and has to use quick thinking to solve complex problems. There is definitely a moral struggle as Gen has to figure out what he believes in. He tries to beat the broken system just like Katniss. The Thief isn’t as violent as The Hunger Games, but there is some fighting. This is a perfect book for grades 4 and up. I wrote a review for The Thief with a deeper look for parents.
Cassia has always trusted The Society’s choices. The Society chooses who you love, where you work and when you die. When her best friend’s face flashes across the Matching screen, she knows he is the one… until a second face flashes on the screen before it goes black. Now she has to choose between perfection and passion. Does she dare to choose love?
Matched begins with Cassia being torn between two amazing men. Sound familiar? The system is perfect until Cassia finds a few flaws. Matched is the first book in a trilogy. It is perfect for Grades 7+ and a natural continuation after The Hunger Games. It doesn’t have the same level of violence but does have tension and danger.
Wither is set in a futuristic dystopia where everyone knows when they will die. Men die at twenty-five, and women die at twenty. In their culture, women are kidnapped and forced into marriage to keep the human race from going extinct. Rhine has been captured and forced to marry. She doesn’t love her husband and wants to be free before she dies.
Wither is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Rhine is placed in impossible situations and has to figure out how to get out and survive. Rhine has similar motives to Katniss and wants to protect those she loves. She may not be in an area, but her world is an area of everyone for themselves. There is quite a bit of content in this book. Make sure to check out my review before picking up this book.
8. City of Bones
When fifteen-year-old Clary walks out of the Pandemonium Club in New York City, the last thing she expected was to witness a murder. Even stranger, the murderers are teenagers covered in tattoos with weird weapons. But the mystery surrounding the event deepens when the body disappears without a trace. Clary Fray is pulled into the world of Shadowhunters (warriors tasked with getting rid of demons on the earth) when her mother is kidnapped. Oh, and she gets attacked by a demon. The question is, why are demons interested in Clary and her mother, and how is she able to see them?
City of Bones is set in modern New York instead of a dystopian world. Clary is a protagonist that won’t sit on the sidelines. She will do anything to protect her mother and teams up with a few unlikely people to make it happen. This is the first book in a six-book series. It is for grades 10+ due to the amount of fantasy violence and a few intense kisses.
Jules is our leading lady and turns seventeen as the story begins. She lives at the edge of a tiny out of the way village called Crofton with her father. Jules worries that her father is coming to the end of his time. She wants to help. She hears a rumor about the Gerlings, one of the largest ruling families. They are hiring a bunch of servants for the Queen’s upcoming visit.
Jules’ father has strong feelings about the Gerlings after they were banished from Everless. He argues that Jules won’t be safe there. Jules doesn’t listen and instead ends up in Everless serving her enemies. Going to Everless puts Jules in more danger than she realizes, and her decisions hold much more weight than she believes. The entire fate of time itself rests in her hands.
I don’t know if I can call Everless a dystopian book since it was never a utopia. It just has a different type of currency. The story doesn’t follow convention and will leave you guessing. Jules learns what friendship is and trying to survive in a cruel world. Head over to my review for more about this book.
This is the book that started the dystopian trend! Tally turns sixteen in a few weeks and can’t wait. On her sixteenth birthday, she can finally have an operation that will turn her repulsive ugliness into a spectacular pretty. She will get to move across the river to a high-tech, never-ending party. Pretties have the looks and the fun without the responsibility. Tally’s best friend Shay isn’t sure if she wants to become a pretty, and runs away before her operation. The authorities have given Tally an ultimatum. Either she finds Shae and brings her back, or they will never turn Tally pretty.
A dystopian novel that tackles responsibility, plastic surgery, and authoritative pressure is the beginning of dystopian novels. Uglies the first of four books showing the progression of Tally’s journey. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where science and selfishness are leveraged for the government’s benefit. This is right up your alley if you are a fan of The Hunger Games. There are some kissing and a small amount of violence at the end. This is a good book for grades 7+.
11. Grave Mercy
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes her life of brutality and an arranged marriage when she finds the convent of St. Mortain, dedicated to one of the old gods. She learns that the god of Death has blessed her with gifts allowing her to see where death will strike and being immune to poisons. Ismae trains as an assassin at a convent dedicated to Death. Her destiny is to be a handmaiden to Death. Her first assignment plunges her into political intrigue at the high court of Brittany. She poses as a mistress to the mysterious Gavriel Duval. Once there, Ismae realizes that she isn’t prepared to play the deadly games of love and intrigue or kill the one she loves.
Grave Mercy features Ismae, a no-nonsense female lead, thrown into the world of violence and destruction. Her adventure is full of self-discovery and her motives changing. Ismae thinks quickly on her feet and is just as deadly as Katniss in The Hunger Games. Because of the subject of the book, it is morbid and dark, but good. There is quite a bit of content in Grave Mercy. Make sure to read my detailed review before checking it out.
Katsa, a smart and beautiful girl, is from a world where select individuals have a Grace or peculiar skill at something. Some have a Grace of dancing well or being able to hold their breath underwater for hours at a time. Katsa’s Grace is killing. She is the niece of the most powerful ruler in the land and is his thug. At sixteen, she decides to take on secret missions to thwart the five power-hungry kings. Her adventures protecting others help her to discover her true Grace. She never expects to uncover the secret that could destroy all of the seven kingdoms with only words.
Graceling features a strong female struggling with love. Katsa fights against the system and tries to make her world better, similar to Katniss. Plus, their names sound so similar! This book is for grades 7+ and has a PG-13 rating for fighting and violence. It has less violence in it than The Huger Games but is still packed with action.
13. The Selection
The Selection is like The Bachelor but lots of drama and low on pettiness. Thirty-five girls have been selected to compete for the hand of the prince. They are whisked off to the palace to be surrounded by glittering gowns and jewels. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is America Singer’s worst nightmare because it means turning her back on her secret love and leaving her home. She doesn’t want to participate in the competition and definitely doesn’t want to live in a castle under attack from a rebellion. After meeting Prince Maxon, America starts to question all the dreams that she had. She starts to wonder if maybe she can have a future that she never even imagined.
America is thrown into a different kind of area, the palace. She doesn’t want to compete, but her family needs the compensation given for her participating. The Selection isn’t your typical love story. Also, not to spoil it too much, but their story doesn’t end at the end of this book. There are still two more books of America and Maxon’s story, so be sure to get The Selection, The Elite, and The One before you sit down to read. You won’t want to put them down.
The book opens three hours after Ezra and Kady breakup. They work together as they attempt to escape from genocide by BeiTech Industries and get off-world. Ezra and Kady end up in different spaceships with limited communication. Even though they are in space, the danger doesn’t leave. Now, they are trying to outrun an enemy dreadnaught and get closer to civilization so BeiTech can be brought to justice. They just have to survive the nine-month journey to the jump station. But in nine months, everything can go wrong.
Illuminae has a zombie apocalypse, mass genocide, and an insane AI holding thousands of people hostage. It is definitely for older teens and adults due to the violence and language. This book is not a dystopian society, but it does feature a female lead who overcomes unbeatable odds to save those she loves. There is quite a bit of violence due to the zombie apocalypse and mass genocide. My review of this book takes a deeper look into the themes and violence.
15. Little White Lies
Eighteen-year-old Sawyer Taft is a car mechanic and didn’t expect her estranged grandmother to show up on her doorstep. She also didn’t expect her grandmother to come with a six-figure contract to participate in the debutante season. She accepts because it gets her closer to solving the mystery of who her father is. Sawyer is thrown into the world of high society with expensive dresses, makeovers, and a whole lot of “bless your hearts.” She gains friends and soon discovers that everyone has a skeleton hiding in their closet. No one likes Sawyer poking in their past, but uncovering the mystery of her origin is too tempting in this glittery world where no one is what they appear.
Little White Lies features four independent female leads and is full of twists and turns that will keep you on your toes while the story is slowly revealed. Sawyer is trying to find her biological father, and the topic of conception comes up a few times. This book is best for teens and young adults who love drama and are ready to read a soap opera.
A thousand years in the future in New Beijing Cinder works in her mechanic shop when Prince Kai appears with a broken android assistant in need of some help. Cinder’s friendship with Kai deepens while spending time at the palace after being drafted to help with plague research. Politics, a plague, and a conspiracy theory help round out and bring dimension to a well-loved story.
This strong female lead is trying to survive in a futuristic world. Then you throw in Cinder’s love, or not love, with a prince, you get a whole lot of political drama and strings that make everything more complex. Cinder is best for ages 13 and up because of mild language during moments of duress. Check out my review for a deeper look into the topics and content. I also did a review of the entire Lunar Series.
17. A Kiss of Deception
Princess Lia runs away from a political match on her way to the altar. Lia tries to make a fresh start without knowing that she has two people on her trail. One is a jilted prince bent on tracking down his would-be bride. The other an assassin sent to kill the princess in “an accident”. Both start the dangerous game of courting her and trying to win her heart, but can she figure out their true identities before she dies.
Lia seems like a helpless princess, but she learns to take care of herself. In later books, Lia becomes a figurehead of change similar to Katniss in The Hunger Games. This is the first book in a trio. I highly recommend getting all three before beginning. A Kiss of Deception is for teens and young adults.
18. Stalking Jack the Ripper
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a seventeen-year-old girl who loves dissection. Her uncle is a coroner and has agreed to teach Miss Wadsworth everything she wants to know. Enter Jack the Ripper. Audrey and her uncle are working to solve the case using early forensics. Soon her uncle is imprisoned as a suspect, and she is left to solve the mystery. All the pieces point to people she loves, but who is Jack the Ripper?
Stalking Jack the Ripper is a horror mystery novel and a perfect fit for any lover of NCIS or other detective murder mystery books. It stars a leading lady, and it keeps you on the toes for the whole story. Audrey is very independent and is trying to protect her family similar to Katniss in The Hunger Games. This book is recommended for grades 7-12. I would rate this book as a PG-13 movie. For a deeper look into this book, check out my full review.
19. Three Dark Crowns
Every generation in the kingdom of Fennbirn, the queen gives birth to triplet girls. Each girl is born with magic and is an equal heir to the throne. Mirabella is an elemental, able to create flames and vicious storms with a wave of her hand. Katharine is a poisoner, able to ingest the deadliest poisons with no consequences. Arsinoe, a naturalist, can make a flower bloom in the palm of her hand and control the fiercest animals. Just because they were born a princess does not mean they will be queen. The battle begins on their sixteenth birthday. The last one standing gets the crown.
This book has strong Hunger Games vibes. Three young women fighting to the death for those they love. This is their destiny and something they have been training for their entire lives. I do like the magical and political elements. They add a new dimension to the struggle. Oh, and they also are trying to choose from the same pool of husbands too! Three Dark Crowns has a similar level of violence and fighting as The Hunger Games, so a lot. This book is a solid PG-13 due to the violence and some language.
20. I Am Number Four
In I Am Number 4, John Smith is on the run from enemies. His enemies are trying to slaughter the last of his race. John is one of eighteen refugees from the planet Lorien. The nine children and their nine guards are the last of their race. They are on the run from an evil group called the Mogadorians until their legacies develop. Legacies are special powers that develop as they mature. Before leaving Lorien, a charm was placed on them so they can only be killed in a particular order. This charm notifies the others when one of them has died. Three are dead. John Smith is number four. They are coming for him.
This book is packed with action and suspense. John has to fend off an alien invasion and gain control of his superpowers. His friends may be few, but John learns to rely on them. I Am Number Four is a science fiction novel with a large helping of action. John gains new allies to help him just like Katniss did in The Hunger Games. It is recommended for grades 7-12. Overall it is similar to a PG-13 movie due to frequent profanity, adult content, and war scenes. Make sure to check out the review for a deeper look into the content.
Need more recommendations like Hunger Games?
Everyone needs more books to read. If you still haven’t found your next book, I have a few more places you can look. Here is a spot to find more fast-paced action books. This post about exploring genres can help you discover something new outside your comfort zone. If you are looking for a mushy romance, this is the post to check out. After looking in all of these places, if you still don’t know what to read, send me a message through my contact page, and I will personally help you find your next great read!