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Best Student Books for The Hunger Games Fans

Meghan Mathis

If your students are anything like mine, they devoured The Hunger Games unlike any book we've read before.

To capitalize on this newfound love of reading, here are my top book picks for students (and all readers) who loved The Hunger Games.

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I just finished teaching a unit on literary elements that used Suzanne Collins’ smash-hit novel, The Hunger Games.  It was a huge success.  Finding novels that my students (9th-12th graders with Learning and Emotional Support needs) will respond to can be a real challenge – but this novel more than delivered. I can honestly say I’ve never found a novel that students responded to so positively.  With the movie coming out, English teachers who are starting to plan for next year would be well-served to consider how they might include this novel in their lesson plans.

My situation is a bit unique in that I will have the same students for multiple years – so I won’t be able to teach using The Hunger Games for another 4 years or so.  Because of this, I find myself wondering: What about this novel drew my students in so completely?  Was it the theme?  The characters?  The plot? 

With that in mind, I’ve started searching for novels that seems to tap into the same types of feelings and issues, novels that have interesting plots and well-developed characters, that I might be able to introduce my students to next year. 

Here are some of the most promising book recommendations for The Hunger Games fans in your classroom... and may the odds be ever in your favor (that they like them).

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Best Student Books for The Hunger Games FansUglies by Scott Westerfield

This novel is the first in a series, which is nice because if your students like it you will be able to encourage them to read the next few books. In this series, the main character is a teenaged girl named Tally.  She lives in a futuristic society filled with fun and interesting gadgets your students will love to read about.  Tally’s society trains its citizens to believe they are ugly until they turn 16 and are all given an operation that will turn them into a “pretty.”  Tally thinks this is what she wants until she meets another teen who is thinking about running away because she hates how fake their world really is. 

There are similarities to The Hunger Games especially in the themes of utopia/dystopia, rebellion against society, and governmental oppression in that really seemed to draw in my students and make them think.  Additionally, I think that the idea of being able to “become beautiful” would be intriguing to a middle school/high school aged group of students. 

Best Student Books for The Hunger Games FansLord of the Flies by William Golding

My students loved discussing how they would have survived if they had been sent to the Arena in The Hunger Games, which made me think about William Golding’s classic novel about a group of boys stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. 

While I strive to bring exciting new literature to my students, I also find it very rewarding to bring the classics into class and work to make them relevant to my students today.  This novel has a lot of the same themes and exciting plot moments, and a healthy dose of violence to draw in some of your unmotivated male students. 

The downside of this novel is that it can be a complicated read – if I used this with my students I would have to do a lot of modifications to lessons and interactive read alouds for the more complicate passages.

Best Student Books for The Hunger Games FansAshfall by Mike Mullin

The novel follows a teenager named Alex who was at home alone for the weekend when the volcano erupts, plunging the nation into chaos.  He begins to travel to find his family and the novel follows his harrowing trip. I was excited to read this novel because I had seen the National Geographic special about the “supervolcano” located beneath Yellowstone National Park that some geologists state is due for a massive eruption that would change life on Earth as we know it. 

This novel definitely has potential for grabbing students’ attention just like The Hunger Games did. There are plenty of scary, violent moments (probably too many to make it an appropriate choice for any grade below 8th) and a lot of moments to highlight literary elements like theme, setting, mood, foreshadowing, etc.  It is also set to be the first book in a three part series.

Best Student Books for The Hunger Games FansEnder’s Game by Orson Scott Card

This is another older novel that has great potential to interest our students today.  The story follows a young boy named Ender.  A genius, Ender is chosen to go to a prestigious military school where he will be trained for battle against evil aliens threatening Earth.

At school he faces bullies, tough teachers, and amazing “classes” where he and his classmates fight in zero-gravity classrooms. 

There is just enough reality for students to find things they can relate to personally and just enough science-fiction for them to get excited about the new ideas and concepts they’ll encounter. 

Best Student Books for The Hunger Games FansVariant by Robison Wells

This story, about a teenager named Benson who decides to attend an exclusive private school only to discover it isn’t at all what he expected, shares some themes with Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies. But it is a new novel, which may appeal to readers who struggle with more difficult texts. 

The private school in Variant is run entirely by students; there are no adults in the school at all. The students have split into gangs in order to survive and Benson has to figure out how he is going to survive and hopefully, escape. This part of the novel seems to have the most in common with The Hunger Games

Like other novels in this list, Variant is going to be a series.

The Hunger Games is definitely a phenomenon of a novel.  Students respond to it in ways that we, as educators, can only dream of – and if you are looking for a way to spruce up your English units I highly recommend you consider giving it a closer look.  If, however, you want something a little different, or if, like me, you are looking for similar novels to recommend to your students please consider this list of old and new novels that share some common elements with the super popular Collins novel, while allowing you to explore new territory as well.  Enjoy!

What books would you recommend for The Hunger Games fans? Share in the comments section!