First published in 2008, The Hunger Games introduced readers to a devastated North America divided into districts under the control of an ultra-wealthy Capitol. We learned that at some point in the past, the districts had revolted against the Capitol’s oppressive regime, leading to one district’s annihilation and the creation of the Hunger Games. During the Hunger Games, each district sends one teenaged boy and one teenaged girl to take part in a gladiatorial-style competition from which only one overall tribute can emerge the victor.
The Hunger Games were followed by two more installments, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The trilogy would go on to inspire a successful film franchise and kickstart the post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA trend of the early 2010s. While the subgenre’s explosive popularity had faded a decade later, Collins would reignite interest with a new novel in the Hunger Games world. Set over 60 years before the original trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes revolves around Coriolanus Snow, the main antagonist of the series. And just like the original trilogy, this prequel also received its own, popular film adaptation.
If you missed out on the dystopian wave or have always been a fan of this subgenre, here are some dystopian books like The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
More Dystopias for Suzanne Collins Fans
Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel focuses on a society where books are banned, which is an oddly timely premise in today’s politically charged world. Guy Montag is a fireman, but his job isn’t to rescue people from burning buildings. His job is to burn books and the houses hiding these illicit materials. Like Coriolanus Snow, he’s a tool of the government, but his work leads to some serious doubts.
A Beginning at the End
The idea of a global pandemic drastically altering the world might strike too close to home these days, but Chen offers a slice of life approach to the question of “What happens after?” Told through the rotating POVs of a former pop idol hiding from her father, an event planner who’d rather forget her past, and a father doing his best to raise his daughter, the novel explores what it takes to keep moving forward when everything you’ve ever known has changed.
This one is for dystopian fans looking for stories about everything happening behind the scenes or while life-changing events occur, because not everyone is a main character.
In the future, society is divided into five factions defined by virtues such as selflessness or honesty. When Tris takes the test to determine which faction she belongs to, she discovers she has a choice: Stay with her family or choose another faction and say goodbye to everyone and everything she’s ever known. But her choice will have repercussions. After all, choice isn’t exactly a hallmark of dystopian societies that control people, a theme that will be familiar to fans of Suzanne Collins’s work.
The Republic rose from the ashes of the post-apocalyptic Western United States, and June hails from one of the Republic’s most prominent families. Born to wealth and power, the prodigy is on the short track to a distinguished military career. But when her brother is murdered, she must hunt down his alleged killer: Day, a boy from the slums who’s also the country’s most wanted criminal.
The star-crossed relationship between June and Day mirrors the one between Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
In a society where real life begins after death, 17-year-old Ten was committed to an asylum when she refused to let her parents choose where she lives after she dies. Ten soon becomes a pawn between two rival realms in the Afterlife. She just wants to make her own choice, but no one seems interested in granting her that luxury. Ten’s struggle between two opposing sides rings similar to the conflict Coriolanus deals in the Hunger Games prequel.
In the world of The Selection, society is divided into a strict caste system. America Singer belongs to the caste devoted to the arts: musicians, artists, dancers, and the like. However, she’s been in a secret relationship with a boy belonging to a lower caste, which is a big no-no. Her boyfriend wants a better life for her, so he encourages America to apply for The Selection, a competition to select the bride of a prince belonging to the top caste. She never expected to be chosen. Worse yet, she never thought she’d form a connection with the young man at the heart of the competition. It’s a dilemma that will be recognizable to fans of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Like The Hunger Games, Shatter Me takes place in a post-apocalyptic society under the iron control of an authoritarian government. Juliette is a young woman with the ability to kill with a touch. For obvious reasons, she hates her gift, which has led to punishment and ostracization. But while she sees her ability as a curse, an organization sees it as a boon—one that can be turned into a formidable weapon.
The Darkest Minds
Ruby survived a mysterious disease that killed most children in the United States. But she didn’t escape unscathed. Instead, she woke up with uncontrollable and dangerous abilities. Sent to a rehabilitation camp for children with similar talents, it soon becomes apparent that the center is less interested in helping kids like Ruby and more interested in imprisoning them.
At the camp, Ruby uses her abilities to make herself appear less dangerous, but when her secret is uncovered, she has no choice but to escape. Alas, her pursuers don’t just include government authorities. They also include rebels interested in using Ruby’s abilities for their own ends. The thin line between oppressive government regimes and violent rebel forces is a favorite theme of The Hunger Games and its successors.
In a future Earth plagued by overpopulation, people are forced to live only one day a week, spending the remaining six days in suspended animation. Jeff Caird is a rebel working to subvert the government, living all seven days a week. But the burden of juggling seven different lives, jobs, and families soon makes Jeff liability. Now he must survive the pursuit of an authoritarian government and the rebellion he once was a part of. Working against an oppressive government while being unsure of the people on your side should be familiar to fans of The Hunger Games and its prequel.
Years before The Hunger Games introduced its vision of child tributes fighting for the entertainment of the Capitol, Battle Royale sent shockwaves through Japan. In the novel, a class of junior high students embarked on a field trip, but it goes awry. They awaken on a deserted island. As part of a program created by the fascist government, each student is given a weapon and one objective: Kill each other until one person is left standing. Sound familiar?
Featured image: Lionsgate Movies / YouTube