Sunday, December 6, 2015

Books Like Divergent / Books Like The Hunger Games

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This post might interest you if you think now and then, or on the regular:

  • What books do I get a teenager for christmas or for a gift?

  • How do I get my teenager to read more?

  • What YA books are there for adults to read, too?

  • What YA books would a teenage boy like?

  • What are books like Divergent?

  • What are books like The Hunger Games?

  • What are books like The Fault In Our Stars?

  • What are some can't-put-it-down YA books?

Read on! All will be revealed! But first!

I witnessed something hilarious at the library the other day.
A woman and her daughter were at the catalogue computer and I was waiting in line behind them.  The mother was slowly typing into the search bar with two index fingers, "books like Divergent."  The daughter's head fell back in exasperation.

"Mom, that's not google," she said. "It doesn't work like that."

"Hmm, what honey?" asked the mother absently, busy tapping the cursor on the library's blank 'no results' page.

"Nothing," the daughter muttered darkly.

HAHAHAHA. We've all been there — both being the one clicking in futility on the 404 page AND being the one rolling the eyes.

But, at that moment, I just wanted to take both their hands in my own and say to them, "I'm a book blogger.  Follow me."

I didn't do that, but I kind of wish I'd said something.  I mean, right behind them the whole time was a girl (me) just bubbling with recommendations.

I could have said to them, "I know of several dystopians that you and your daughter might like, in the same style as Divergent. I will share those with you. But what I think you're really after is that addictive, can't-put-it-down quality so plentiful in books such as those written by Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, and John Green.  Those come in many genres within YA lit, and I will tell you all about them."

This list is what I would have given them — some of YA's best gems yet to become household names.

*** Note *** My Boy-Friendly Levels are all based off of what I know my brother would like.  It is NOT indicative of the full spectrum of male tastes by any stretch of the imagination.

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Graceling » by Kristin Cashore » published  2008 » Goodreads Link

  • Fantasy

  • Action and Romance

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Medium

  • Like Hanna meets Lord of the Rings

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

Whenever someone sort of new to the YA scene asks me for a book recommendation, I always throw Graceling at them and tell them to think fast.  There are so many great things going for this book.  The hook is outstanding — in a fantasy world,  the Seven Kingdoms, some babies develop two different colored eyes and manifest an extreme power as they grow.  Katsa, the niece of a wicked king, has the power of killing; she's a living weapon.  She is also the head of a secret resistance group set on fighting tyranny and corruption in the Seven Kingdoms.

This book is so, so readable.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it, although it is catered more towards the ladies.  Boys might find the love interest, Po, to be a bit too perfect to pass for a realistic guy.  But there is action and suspense galore in this title.  It is incredibly cinematic.  I don't know where to begin and how to stop in praising this book.

Bonus: There are two sequels, Fire and Bitterblue, although Graceling is by far the most commercial.

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White Cat » by Holly Black » published 2010 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary Fantasy

  • Plot Twists and Hijinks

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Pretty High

  • Like Harry Potter meets The Sopranos

Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn't fit in at home or at school, so he's used to feeling like an outsider. He's also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen.

I remember and treasure the memory of reading White Cat for the first time.  This is a book that will appeal to all genders, as there is a fantastic male lead in Cassel Sharpe. The premise is that magic is real and out in the open, but in the 1920's, it was made illegal.  As a result, magic working became an organized criminal activity run by a small number of powerful, magical families.  Cassel was born without magic powers, though his entire family is gifted with them.  Then, one night, he has a dream of a white cat, which leads him into a plot of concealment, treachery, and betrayal.

This book, and its sequels, Red Glove and Black Heart, are so addictive.  You will have a reading binge on your hands with these.

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Under the Never Sky » by Veronica Rossi » published 2012 » Goodreads Link

  • Dystopian

  • Romance and Adventure

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Um, Low

  • Like Minority Report meets X-Men meets Tarzan

Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.

If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.

This book really heats up when our two leads get together, a few chapters into the book.  One is a young woman, cast out of her protected apocalyptic safety pod into the harsh outdoor world.  The other is a young man, genetically mutated with extraordinary sensory abilities, who makes his living in the rough, wilderness plagued by aether storms. They are forced to work together for a common goal, making a trek through a forested coastal landscape.

The romance in this book is pretty dishy and the world-building is great.

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Shadow and Bone » by Leigh Bardugo » published 2012 » Goodreads Link

  • Fantasy w/ Steampunk

  • Special Powers and Intrigue

  • Boy Friendly Levels*: Medium-Low

  • Like Russia's Last Tsar meets that scene in LOTR:Return of the King when Gandalf chases away the Nazgul with a huge beam of light

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I read this one all through the night. This is yet another book about special powers, which are so much fun, are they not?  Alina Starkov is a mapmaker's apprentice in the army in a Russian-inspired fantasy world.  Her nation respects and fears the grisha, humans with magical powers, and Alina has only ever watched them from afar.  But when her life and the life of the boy she loves is in peril, Alina's latent magical abilities burst to the surface.

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Six of Crows » by Leigh Bardugo » published 2015 » Goodreads Link

  • Fantasy w/ Steampunk

  • Heists and Sleight of Hand

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Quite High

  • Girl With a Pearl Earring meets Ocean's Eleven

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

This was my favorite book of 2015.  Bardugo knocks it out of the park with a great ensemble cast of characters, a high-stakes plot which features a heist and [spoiler]prison escape[/spoiler], and excellent twists and surprises.  Reading Shadow and Bone before Six of Crows is helpful, but not necessary.

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Vampire Academy » by Richelle Mead » published 2007 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary Fantasy

  • Romantic and Kick-Butt

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Haha — Low

  • Vampire Diaries meets Good Will Hunting

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires - the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

This is very much a series aimed at girls, with a female protagonist, and girl-issues.  What makes the Vampire Academy series (six books!) so much fun, is the utter kick-butt heroine, Rose Hathaway.  She swings and whollops and karate kicks her way through the series. The romance between her and her older tutor is nothing to scoff at either.

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The Thief » by Megan Whalen Turner » published 1996 » Goodreads Link

  • Fantasy

  • Plot Twists and Cleverness

  • Boy-Friendly Level*: Very High

  • Edith Hamilton's Greek Myths meets Catch Me If You Can

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs
a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

The Thief is the first installment in an ongoing series, known for its iconic plot twists, that started in 1996 — wow!  It features strong male and female characters and a protagonist whose snark, sass, and ingenuity has to be read to be believed.  This is one of my favorite books and series of all time and is certain to delight all ages from middle grade onward.


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Paranormalcy » by Kiersten White » published 2010 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary Fantasy

  • Young love and intrigue

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Pretty Low

  • Harry Potter meets Covert Affairs

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

I read this series in college and it was so much fun.  Evie has the ability to see through magical glamour, and is an important asset for a magic-controlling agency.  Then she captures a boy sneaking around HQ, who, by all appearances, is made of water and can take on anyone's appearance.  Add a creepy fae sort-of-ex-boyfriend and adult keepers, and Paranormalcy becomes incandescent.

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Saving Francesca » by Melina Marchetta » published 2003 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary

  • Emotional and Introspective

  • Boy-Friendly Level*:  Kinda Low

  • 10 Things I Hate About You meets Silver Linings Playbook

Francesca battles her mother, Mia, constantly over what's best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian's, an all-boys' school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca's surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos or worse.

Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months, and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother's high spirits, she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn't yet realize that she's more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St. Sebastian's, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and especially herself.

This is a fantastic contemporary YA by an Australian author, Melina Marchetta.  This book is perfect for lovers of contemporary YA fiction. It strikes the perfect balance between utter hilarity and sadness.

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Anna and the French Kiss » by Stephanie Perkins » published 2010 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary

  • Romantic and Introspective

  • Boy-Friendly Level*: So, so Low

  • French Kiss meets your freshman year of college

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Perkins writing  just has that je ne sais quois, that joie de vivre. Yes, the book is set in Paris — at an American boarding school.  Anna's parents are divorced.  Her dad writes best-selling romance novels that end in cancer.  And she's being shipped off to boarding school in France.  Things look up though when she meets who may be the most perfect boy God ever created, even though he's a little on the short side.  The only thing is... he has a girlfriend.

Ah, the angst!  But this book is just compulsively read-able, and tons of fun.

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The Sea of Tranquility » by Katja Millay » published 2012 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary

  • Romantic and Suspenseful

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Low... It's Pretty Romantic

  • Thirteen meets A Simple Curve

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

This is a true hidden gem.  Originally self-published, it was snatched up by a publisher in a matter of weeks. It follows a mysterious girl, Nastya, who enters a new high school.  She dresses in black, wears spike heels, and is mute.  What happened to her?  It's a great read, and has the best final line I've ever read in a book.

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The Scorpio Races » by Maggie Steifvater » published 2011 » Goodreads Link

  • Historical Fantasy

  • Suspenseful and Atmospheric

  • Boy-Friendly Level*: High!

  • Hidalgo meets Doc Martin

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

If your reader was obsessed with horses when he/she was young then this is the book you're looking for! Drop your magnifying glass because you've found it.  In all my horse-book reading days, no book captures the equine spirit and mind quite like The Scorpio Races. 

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Tales of the Madman Underground » John Barnes » published 2009 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary/ Historical

  • Hilarious and Moving

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Very High

  • The Breakfast Club meets Girl, Interrupted

Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker's senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl's been part of what he calls "the Madman Underground" - a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act - and be - Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.

Oh my God, I was just rolling in laughter when I first read this book.  Eyes closed, wheezing, disbelief laughter.  This books is perfect for people with troubles who also like to laugh.  I wouldn't call it gallows humor, but the hilarity is definitely on the darker side.

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Open Road Summer » by Emery Lord » published 2014 » Goodreads Link

  • Contemporary

  • Frienship-Oriented and Romantic

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Low

  • Taylor Swift meets Abigail Anderson

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

This wasn't the perfect book, but it was immensely readable, regardless.  This is as close to watching TV as YA lit gets.

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Cruel Beauty » by Rosamund Hodge » published 2014 » Goodreads Link

  • Fantasy

  • Romantic and Intriguing

  • Boy-Friendly Levels*: Low

  • Beauty and the Beast meets The Maze Runner

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

This book has a very exciting (and bodice-rippy) opening and romantic suspense keeps you reading until the end, through all of its twists and turns.

/// /// /// /// ///

There you have it — my list of books like Divergent et cetera!  These are some of the most commercial, appealing, and addictive books in YA lit right now. I am jealous of you who get to read these for the first time!


  1. Oh I feel that way when I'm at a bookstore. Especially if I see a person holding a book that I knew was awful. Lol. But I don't want to feel like a jackass telling them what not to read. :D

  2. Ha! So true. People watching in bookstores and libraries can be in turns inspirational and depressing.