Published on March 5th, 2015 | by Gloria Romano
Reader’s Advisory: The Hunger Games
Even if you have not read it, every librarian is familiar with the dystopian novel “The Hunger Games”. Written by Suzanne Collins, the trilogy takes place in a dystopic North America renamed Panem where twenty-four young adults are chosen from twelve districts to take part in a deadly game held yearly at the ruling Capitol called The Hunger Games. Among the chosen is Katniss Everdeen, a volunteer tribute who becomes a symbol of rebellion among her society as she challenges the ruling elite. Throughout the trilogy, readers are taken on a journey through a corrupt futuristic country where victory comes at a price and the young are used for entertainment and payment. They are introduced to a slew of characters from all walks of life, some of which are forced to choose between their beliefs and the laws of their country.
Since its publication in 2008, “The Hunger Games” trilogy has impacted the literary world with its controversial storyline and devoted fan base. Not only have teenagers devoured the books, but adult readers have enjoyed them, as well. And with the movie series drawing to a close, it is a possibility that new readers and fans will emerge. Of course, librarians are prepared for all of this. It is best to have a good supply of these books, along with the movie guide and the first two films (“The Hunger Games” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”). But with only three books, a reader may want more. So after reading “The Hunger Games”, what should you suggest to read next?
What to Look For
Let’s strip the novel to the bare bones, shall we? What specific qualities do teen patrons enjoy about the trilogy? There are many aspects of “The Hunger Games” that readers enjoy more than others, whether it is the plot, the characters, the concept, or even the author herself. As an example, let us focus on three aspects that readers may want to see in a “Hunger Games” read-alike.
A dystopic future is characterized as a society that has gone through a drastic change due to a life altering event, whether it be war, climate change, a plague, or anything else catastrophic. The result is usually the world has changed either for the better or the worse. In most cases, it’s usually the latter. The country of Panem is such a society due to its control over the twelve districts using their children and strict laws.
Strong Female Protagonist
Katniss Everdeen is represented as a strong female character that cares for those around her and goes to different lengths to protect them, especially her family and friends. However, through her trials and tribulations, Katniss grows into her own identity and gains assistance from those she cares for.
Arena Battles and Action
A majority of the action in “The Hunger Games” takes place during the games. Twenty-four young adults are pitted against one another in a wilderness where anything can harm them. It becomes a fight for survival as the tributes are taken out by each other using anything at their disposal for a weapon.
There are many books that are similar to “The Hunger Games” but here are a few titles that librarians should know of when searching for a read-alike:
Battle Royale by Houshun Takami
Before “The Hunger Games”, there was Houshun Takami’s controversial novel “Battle Royale”. The plot of the book is very similar to Collins’s novel but instead of a glorified reality game, the children are unknowingly transported to a deserted island as part of a program implemented by a futuristic totalitarian government, where they must fight one another until there is only one student left alive. Fans of “The Hunger Games” will find similarities between the two books but will enjoy the descriptive action and exciting storyline where anything can happen.
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Imagine a prison that is part high tech technology, part medieval torture device, placed within a world of old customs and legends. A place such as this can be found in Catherine Fisher’s “Incarceron”, a steampunk dystopia about two teens from different societies who form a bond based on their need of escapement and change. “Hunger Games” readers will be intrigued by Fisher’s unique universe and the differing rungs of classes who live inside and outside the prison of Incarceron and their own personal one. The young protagonists’ search for rebellion and truth will keep readers glued to the pages and wonder what will come next.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
What is a Divergent? It is a name given to someone who strays from one specific mindset and into several others. What if you discovered you were one? For Tris Prior, her divergent status, if revealed, may lead to her death. In Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”, the city of Chicago has become a dystopic society where the population is divided into five factions based on a person’s personality. This is to prevent anyone from practicing independent will, believing it may lead to rebellions and distress amongst the organized society. So when Tris finds out she is a divergent, she must settle into her chosen faction and act a certain way before her government discovers the truth. If readers enjoy the action and voice of Katniss Everdeen, they may find enjoyment with the character of Tris Prior. Just like Katniss, Tris is a hardworking and caring individual who cares for her family but finds herself amongst the rebellious population in her city’s strict and controlling government.
Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams
Dystopian stories are not new. For many years, writers have delved into the idea of a controlling police state and a corrupt, unfair government. They have published many stories, containing their own views and voices. There are many dystopic novels from way back but if a reader wants just a small taste, this book is a good place to start. Edited by John Joseph Adams, “Brave New Worlds” is a collection of dystopic short stories written by noteworthy science fiction authors from the past to the present. This collection includes popular stories such as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Harrison Bergeron”, and “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick. For anyone who wants to try a variety of stories, as well as something from a few years back, this is a great place to start.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
In James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner” a group of boys are transported to a deserted jungle with no knowledge of whom they are or why they are there. All they know is the maze; an ever changing structure with dangerous traps and creatures lying in wait for the next challenger. The only way out is through the maze but no one has ever survived the venture. Just like “The Hunger Games”, Dashner’s novel takes a group of teenagers and places them in a fight for survival against a powerful but mysterious adversary. Readers who are looking for an adventure story with a little bit of mystery will find this book to their liking.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Set in the post-apocalyptic American Gulf Coast, Paolo Bacibalupi’s “Ship Breaker” takes readers to a place where teenagers must work in order to make a living. Nailer has a simple job: salvaging beached ships for valuable materials. However, his life changes when he discovers a fancy clipper ship with a young girl barely alive inside. She promises a great fortune but can she be trusted? In “Ship Breaker”, it’s a dog eat dog world where everybody wants to make a profit for riches or survival. Just like in “The Hunger Games”, the characters do what they can to find a better life and survive their hardships, while trying to figure out who can be trusted.
If you have a patron who wants to read something similar to “The Hunger Games”, these six books are a great place to start. However, they are not the only ones. If you are looking for more titles to include in your suggestions, you can find them on my Pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.com/geromano/the-hunger-games-readalikes/. Another resource to try is this informative and detailed infographic by the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas: http://www.lawrence.lib.ks.us/2012/10/still-hungry-for-more-books-like-the-hunger-games/. Of course you can always go through your own library collection and your personal reading history to find a great read-alike for your patron.
So good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.