It’s nine long, agonizing months until the Catching Fire movie – the second installment of Suzanne Collins’ phenomenally popular Hunger Games trilogy – is released in theatres worldwide on November 22. So what do you do if you’re going through a severe case of Hunger Games withdrawal? 

 

Well, I’m not a doctor but I have five exceptional titles – and five kick butt heroines à la Katniss Everdeen – that I believe will cure what ails you.

 

This soon-to-be released debut novel from Ariel Djanikian is set in a post-apocalyptic world where, after a global catastrophe known as the Storm, what’s left of humankind live in mostly subterranean settlements that seem to be almost utopian. Their every need is met through a high-tech infrastructure and cell replacement technology offers all citizens long and healthy lives. The overarching credo in these settlements is simple: World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended. But when 24-year old Natasha Wiley goes Outside as part of a mission to kill ( ie: “give mercy” to) a nearby tribe of wild humans, her world is tuned upside down when she realizes that the ethical behavior that she has embraced her entire life may in fact be entirely corrupt. She and a small group of rebels plot to change the system…

 

"All of life was beautiful; all of life was mystery; to end it was the most horrible thing in the universe. Worse than suffering. Worse than pain..."

 

 Fantastic world building coupled with the deep examination of some profound themes makes this an entertaining and highly thought-provoking read.

 

I have absolutely loved the first two novels in this trilogy, which I have described as a “visionary masterwork.” Set in a future Chicago that is divided into five distinctive societal factions and revolving around 16-year old heroine Beatrice “Tris” Prior, this vividly realized coming-of-age story – powered by complex sociological and political speculation – will be one of the very best dystopian sagas you will ever read. Guaranteed.

 

“Killing you is not the worst thing they can do to you… controlling you is.”

 

Released in 2011, Stracher’s first foray into young adult fiction – a dystopian thriller entitled The Water Wars – was chillingly believable: and sadly underappreciated. Set in a world where decades of criminal environmental recklessness have caused the polar caps to melt and most of the planet’s freshwater lakes and rivers to dry up, a huge percentage of the world’s dispossessed population has already died from drought, starvation, disease and war. The Great Panic, as it was called, saw powerful governments collapse into chaos and smaller nations rise from their ashes. The United States of America is no more – now the superpower of North America is the evil Empire of Canada and what is left of the States are now just a handful of inhospitable republics plagued by drought – Minnesota, Illinowa, Texas, etc.

 

The story revolves around Vera and Will, a 15-year old girl and her older brother who set out on a heroic quest to find and rescue their kidnapped friend Kai, an enigmatic boy who seems to know much more about the world than a normal boy should. Before disappearing with his father – who is a driller, a wildcatter, who knows the secrets of finding water far underneath the earth – Kai confides to Vera that he knows the location of a potentially world-altering secret river! 

 

Exploring themes like greed, ignorance, and apathy – The Water Wars is a wonderful book to initiate discussions (in classrooms, between parents and their children, etc.) about environmental stewardship and how the actions of one person can change the world for the better…

 

 

The premise of DeStefano’s debut novel, a dystopian tale for young adults – and the first volume of her Chemical Garden trilogy (Wither, Fever, and the forthcoming Sever) – is fascinating: no one lives past 25!

 

 

Rhine Ellery is a 16-year old living in an anarchic Manhattan with her twin brother Rowan. In the blink of an eye, her world is turned upside down when she is abducted by a group of men and shipped to Florida where she becomes one of a wealthy architect’s three new wives. Living in a centuries-old mansion with servants waiting on her every need may seem heavenly for some but Rhine sees the reality of things. She is a prisoner, her “husband” an abhorrent man, but worst of all is her father-in-law, a madman who is doing some abominable research in the basement…

 

This is an unforgettable and decidedly dark saga with stunning imagery and some awesome one-liners, like this: “Even the human race can’t claim to be natural anymore. We are fake, dying things.”

 

Enclave – the first installment of Aguirre’s Razorland series – was a highly entertaining amalgam of McCarthy’s The Road and DuPrau’s The City of Ember. As the novel begins in a subterranean enclave that is home to a strictly regimented society of humans – Breeders, Builders, and Hunters – readers don’t know what has happened in humankind’s past to drive its remnants underground. They don’t know what, if anything, is left Topside. All they know is that a small group of people are barely surviving in an enclave – presumably an old New York City subway station – and that if they don’t follow the rules, they become exiled and take “the long walk” outside the security of the enclave to their inevitable death.

 

Deuce is a young Huntress, a butt-kicking, dagger-wielding ritualistically scarred warrioress whose job is to hunt down food for the enclave and to protect it from nightmarish Freaks who wander around in the tunnels. But when she is sent on a dangerous recon mission to a distant enclave that is rumored to be surrounded by Freaks, Deuce begins to realize that she has been living a lie – and that what she thought was security is really a prison.

 

I summed up Enclave as “unfathomably dark,” deeply provocative, and undeniably cool.

 

 

You want novels that are just as entertaining and visionary as The Hunger Games? This list of extraordinary reads is just what the doctor ordered....

 

 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.

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