Young adult fiction has seen major growth in recent years, with many books like “Divergent” connecting with millions of readers. Filled with detailed characters, fantastic settings, emotional love stories and elaborate plots, young adult fiction bridges the gap between simplistic children’s literature and more sophisticated works. For many readers, books like “Divergent” give them their first taste of contemporary literature. By focusing on subjects relevant to its readers and filling its pages with approachable prose, young adult fiction has helped readers understand that there’s more to literature than stiff writing from the 19th century.
Books like “Divergent” have been criticized for being formulaic, but the formula exists for a reason: It works. Many of these young adult works focus on individual protagonists who must forge their own identities while fighting against the expectations and demands of the outside world. These themes resonate with young adult readers, many of whom are tackling the prospect of facing the world on their own for the first time. Books like “Divergent” give these readers a roadmap to success, helping them to realize that they don’t have to blindly conform to outside expectations.
#1 – Matched
The first book of a trilogy, “Matched” is set in a dystopian future where young adults are automatically paired up with their life partners. Cassia Reyes finds herself paired with a childhood friend, Xander Carrow, but when she sees her official profile on a computer, she begins to wonder whether she was meant to be with Xander. She sees the possibility of another match with an outcast at school, Ky Markham, and starts to question the wisdom of her society. This book, like “Divergent,” explores the idea of a ritualized society that forces young people to make life-changing decisions based on incomplete information.
#2 – Delirium
In Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium,” love is viewed as a disease to be avoided at all costs. The book’s totalitarian government seeks to eliminate love from its citizens through a surgical process. Lena, the book’s protagonist, struggles to face her upcoming surgery after meeting a young man who grew up outside of the government’s laws. She must choose whether to be true to her burgeoning feelings or conform to her society’s expectations.
#3 – Enclave
As with many books like “Divergen’t, this dystopian book takes place in a bleak future. “Enclave” is set in a future New York City ravaged by war, where survivors have banded together to live underground. Upon turning 15, the book’s protagonist, Deuce, begins working as a huntress to help keep her enclave of survivors safe. However, she and her partner, Fade, discover that horrible monsters have begun taking over the enclaves. Eventually, Deuce and Fade have little choice but to take their chances in the decimated upper world.
#4 – The Maze Runner
Thomas, a young man with no memory of his past, wakes up in glade surrounded by other amnesiac boys. He quickly learns of the danger in his new life as the glade is surrounded by a deadly maze full of terrors and monsters. With the arrival of a young woman, Teresa, life at the glade begins to change quickly, and Thomas finds himself in a predicament he could never have imagined.
#5 – Legend
Like “Divergent,” this book features a broken version of the future United States. The western United States has become its own nation, known as the Republic, and is constantly at war with its neighbors. A young woman named June, the daughter of a prominent family, quickly moves up the ranks in the militarized society of the Republic. However, when June’s brother is murdered, she abandons her station to seek her revenge.
#6 – Allegiant
“Allegiant” is the conclusion of the dystopian trilogy that began with “Divergent.” The world’s faction-based society has devolved into violence, destruction and outright warfare. As the violence intensifies, Tris and her allies begin to uncover the secrets behind their regimented society. Tris must choose whether to fight her society or work to perpetuate the faction system.
#7 – Birthmarked
Caragh M. O’Brien
Gaia Stone and her mother live outside of society, serving as midwives for a civilization in a world ravaged and forever altered by climate change. Each month, the midwives must deliver three babies from the outside world to the mysterious walled city, Enclave. When Gaia’s mother is unexpectedly arrested, Gaia must confront the people that she has been trying to serve her entire life.
Silverlake, the setting of “Blood Red Road”, is a desolate wasteland, home to only the bravest of souls. Together, Saba and her twin brother, Lugh, have made the best of their situation. One day, a group of horsemen arrive in the middle of a horrific sandstorm and take Lugh away, sending Saba on the adventure of her life.
#9 – Uglies
Teenagers in the world of “Uglies” face a daunting change when they turn sixteen: extreme cosmetic surgery to conform to their society’s vision of beauty. After the surgery, the newly beautiful teenagers must venture into a new life in a new city. Although Tally is eagerly awaiting her surgery, she learns that there are hidden downsides to the transformation and must decide her own fate.
In the town of Perdido Beach, everyone above the age of 15 suddenly vanishes into thin air. A group of teens, wanting to understand their circumstances, explore the surrounding area and discover that an energy barrier keeps them contained. The mystery deepens as some teens begin to develop strange new powers, and everyone in the town fears what will happen to them when they become 15.
#11 – Graceling
In this fantasy novel, people with expert skills are known as Gracelings. Katsa, the main character, has the ability to kill with her bare hands. Although she is the niece of the king, Katsa is forced to work as a violent enforcer of the kingdom. However, Katsa wishes to use her powers to help people instead. She forms a vigilante group for that purpose, but faces an uncertain future when she allows someone to live after witnessing her power.
Zombies take the center stage in Carrie Ryan’s debut novel for young adults. Due to an unknown disaster, the majority of the world’s population have become zombies, driven only by their need to consume flesh. Mary lives in a town protected from the zombies by a series of fences. When the fence is breached, however, Mary escapes to discover what has happened to the world beyond her childhood home.
#13 – The Host
In a futuristic world, incorporeal alien beings have taken up residence in the Earth’s remaining humans, destroying the consciousness of the humans they assimilate. Unlike other hosts, however, Melanie Stryder resists the alien’s control and preserves her own identity. Eventually, she and her alien parasite become allies when they search for the man that they both love.
Todd Hewitt lives in a town with no women; the population is entirely male. In addition, each resident can hear the thoughts of others and the thoughts of nearby animals. One day, Todd discovers a place where he can’t hear any thoughts. He also discovers another the mystery: a young woman named Viola who has come from a distant world.
#15 – Across the Universe
“Across the Universe” blends the mystery genre with science fiction as a young girl races to identify a killer aboard a spaceship. Amy, the book’s protagonist, begins the novel peacefully sleeping in a cryogenic chamber, awaiting her new life at an Earth-like planet. However, she awakens early and discovers the danger facing everyone on the ship.
In this short story, the events of one of the chapters of the book “Divergent” are retold from the perspective of Tobias, also known as Four. This story gives more insight into Four’s character and his history as he, Tris and the other members of the Dauntless faction practice throwing knives. Although a short read without heavy action, “Free Four” helps to expand the book of “Divergent”, giving readers a chance to appreciate how limited Tris’ perspective was.
#17 – Insurgent
In the second book of the “Divergent” trilogy, Tris and her allies leave Chicago to seek refuge at the headquarters of the Amity faction. However, the threat of violence and war follows them, forcing them to make difficult choices in a world that is quickly becoming more dangerous. Tris must also face her past as she stands trial for the tragic death that occurred in the first novel.
#18 – Life As We Knew It
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Miranda’s normal life in Pennsylvania comes to a dramatic end after a dense asteroid hits the moon, pushing its orbit closer to the Earth. Immediately, natural disasters strike across the planet, ranging from devastating earthquakes to tsunamis. Miranda’s family must struggle to survive as hunger becomes commonplace and dire sicknesses begin to spread among the survivors.
#19 – Prodigy
“Prodigy,” the sequel to “Legend,” follows June and Day as they arrive in Las Vegas. While there, they learn that the Republic’s leader has just died, leaving his son in command. Day and June join a rebel group and are tasked to assassinate the new leader of the Republic. However, June soon realizes that the new leader is nothing like his father. As with many books like Divergent, June must decide whether she should follow her orders or make her own decision.
#20 – Shatter Me
Juliette has an unusual ability: the power to kill with a single touch. After an accidental death, Juliette is locked away in an asylum. The government decides to make use of Juliette’s power, giving her freedom in exchange for her help in torturing prisoners. With the help of a childhood friend and eventual romantic partner, Juliette escapes her new situation and joins a rebellion group hoping to dismantle the government.
#21 – The Giver
“The Giver” is a popular book from the 1990s that inspired many dystopian books like Divergent. In this book’s world, society is simple and drab, with people’s roles determined in a ceremony at age 12. At Jonas’ ceremony, he learns that he will become the Receiver of Memory, a role that requires him to inherit all of the community’s memories and emotions from the previous Receiver. Through his role, Jonas learns how the society spurned emotions, both positive and negative, in order to achieve peace. Jonas and the current Receiver decide together that the community has lost too much and that change is necessary.
#22 – The Hunger Games
In the world of “The Hunger Games,” society is broken up into the wealthy Capitol and the surrounding districts where poverty is common. Each year, the Capitol selects one boy and one girl from each district to participate in a deadly challenge held in an outdoor arena. Katniss Everdeen, from District 12, volunteers herself when her younger sister is selected as a participant. A friend from school, Peeta Mellark, is selected as the boy from her district. Together, they decide to employ an unconventional strategy so that they can both survive and return home.
#23 – Transient
In “Transient,” a tool called the cryptograph allows anyone to find out the exact day of their death. As with many books like “Divergent”, this new innovation stratifies society; in this book, the population is segregated by lifespan. Rae, nearing the age when she is expected to learn the day of her death, attempts to thwart her fate and avoid the test.
#24 – Unwind
In the dark world of “Unwind,” children cannot be harmed until they reach the age of 13. Upon reaching 13, however, parents may choose to end their child’s life through a process called unwinding, harvesting their child’s healthy organs to give new life to needy recipients. Three teens facing the unwinding process unite to escape their gruesome fate.
#25 – Wither
After a failed attempt to perfect humanity, lifespans have shortened dramatically. Males have only 25 years to live, and females die at 20. While the world’s top scientists race to find a cure to this dire predicament, young Rhine finds herself sold as a bride to a man with numerous wives. With her lifespan quickly drawing to an end, Rhine makes a choice to flee from her comfortable life in search of freedom.
#26 – Catching Fire
Despite her victory in the previous novel, “The Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen finds little peace back home in District 12. Tensions are beginning to flare up across Panem, and the Capitol declares that another Hunger Games will begin. In this version of the Games, Katniss and Peeta must fight against previous winners of the Hunger Games.
#27 – Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card
In this book, one of the precursors to books like Divergent, humanity faces the threat of extinction from insectoid aliens. Earth places its best hopes on Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a young child who has the potential to become the greatest military genius in history. Manipulated by his military teachers into nurturing his budding tactical genius, Ender must face harsh choices and social ostracism. Pushed to the breaking point by his training, Ender faces a choice that will define the rest of his life.
#28 – Mockingjay
In the final book of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, Katniss Everdeen becomes a unifying symbol in the fight against the corrupt Capitol. Katniss is eventually reunited with Peeta, her love interest, who has been cruelly brainwashed by the Capitol. Through her work with the rebellion, Katniss discovers some uncomfortable truths, making her question the true motives of the rebellion.
#29 – Pandemonium
“Pandemonium” is the second book in Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” trilogy. It follows the adventures of Lena as she explores the untamed wilderness after escaping from the love-destroying procedure. After nearly dying from the harsh conditions in the wilderness, Lena meets a group of strangers who want to save all of society from the devastating procedure.
#30 – Pretties
In the sequel to “Uglies,” Tally has undergone her cosmetic procedure, becoming beautiful and earning all the perks of society, including new clothes and a boyfriend. However, even with the distraction of constant parties, Tally feels that something is missing. Tally receives a message from her past, forcing her to remember everything and leaving her with an important choice to make.
#31 – Specials
The “Uglies” trilogy comes to a conclusion with Tally becoming a Special, a beautiful and deadly fighting machine. Although Tally now lives to act as a weapon, a small part of her still yearns for something more. When she is given one last mission to destroy the rebels she once aided, Tally will have to choose between her duty and her heart.
#32 – The Death Cure
“The Death Cure” is the concluding book in the “Maze Runner” trilogy. As the book opens, Thomas finds himself trapped in solitary confinement and learns that he and his friends from the glade are immune to a deadly disease. WICKED needs Thomas for one final experiment, forcing him to flee to save his life.
#33 – The Moon Dwellers
In this book like “Divergent,” the massive destruction on the Earth’s surface has forced humans to live underground in a society called the Tri-Realms. Adele, a member of the moon dweller realm, is unfairly jailed for her parent’s alleged crimes. With the help of two other inmates, Adele manages to escape but is quickly pursued by Rivet, a crazed killing machine. Meanwhile, Tristan leaves his comfortable lifestyle as a sun dweller to seek more meaning in his own life and meets Adele, a meeting that will change their lives forever.
#34 – The Scorch Trials
After surviving the horrors of the maze in the previous novel, “The Maze Runner,” Thomas and his friends thought they had found safety. However, WICKED, a government agency, sends the group on a journey across the desolate landscape common to books like Divergent. The group faces a two-week deadline to complete their journey and will have to face challenges they can’t even imagine.
#35 – The Selection
When a competition to become the wife of a prince is announced, America Singer balks at the idea. Although the opportunity presents many amazing awards, America is already in love with someone else. However, her boyfriend convinces her to enter the challenge, and she begins to develop a friendship with the prince. America’s heart is further conflicted when her boyfriend arrives in the palace as a guard.
#36 – Crossed
Cassia continues her quest to find Ky, one of her potential matches. She discovers that Ky has left a series of clues to help her find him. During her adventures, she sees wild lands that she never knew existed and begins to feel rebellion build in her heart. However, Cassia’s original match, Xander, is still trying to stay in her life.
Saba is ready to meet her enemy, DeMalo, in the conclusion of the “Dust Lands” trilogy. DeMalo, however, surprises Saba with an idea to heal the planet and offers her a spot with his group of visionaries. Ultimately, Saba decides to join the guerilla group united against DeMalo in a fight that will decide the future of the planet.
Even after defeating a tyrant and saving her brother in “Blood Red Road,” Saba cannot find peace as a new enemy quickly appears. She turns to her new love, Jack, for support, but he soon flees, leaving behind troubling secrets. In this book like “Divergent”, Saba must rely on her own cunning to stay alive.
In the world of “Fahrenheit 451,” firemen don’t fight fires; they start fires, using books as fuel. Guy Montag is a fireman and enjoys prestige and a comfortable life thanks to his profession. However, when a woman burns herself to death rather than allow Guy and his coworkers to burn her books, Guy becomes intrigued by the power of books and smuggles one into his pocket. As he starts reading, he finds himself growing disgusted by the small-minded attitudes of his wife and neighbors. As his interest in forbidden books grows, Guy must choose between his comfortable but restricted society and his growing need to free his mind.
In a world ravaged by extreme heat, life is short for the few who manage to survive. When girls turn 16, they are immediately married off to ensure the survival of the human race. As Sienna inches closer to her sixteenth birthday, she begins to hear rumors of a group that rescues young women before they are forced to marry. Sienna desperately seeks the truth of this rescue group so that she too can escape her unfortunate fate.
This short story from Veronica Roth centers on Four, one the main characters in the book “Divergent.” The story takes place before the events of “Divergent” and shows Tobias’ life before he chose to join the Dauntless faction. “The Transfer” delves into the past of one of the series’ most secretive characters, helping to explain how Four came to be the way he is.
In the sequel to “Enclave,” Deuce is now living aboveground in a town named Salvation. Having grown up below the ground, she feels out of place. The man she has fallen in love with, Fade, seems to be keeping her at a distance. To keep herself occupied, she starts working with patrol groups to keep the town safe. However, the monsters that drove her out of the underground have begun to spread and now threaten her aboveground life as well.
In the final book of Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” series, protagonist Lena is now a willing member of the resistance forces. Lena’s world changes again with the reappearance of an old crush, Alex. The book also includes the perspective of Hana, Lena’s best friend who underwent the procedure that removes the ability to love. The actions of both girls eventually lead them to walk down the same path.
Picking up right where “The Knife of Never Letting Go” ended, this book continues the tragic tale of Todd Hewitt and his capture by the leaders of the new government. Todd is put in prison, and Viola is taken to a place where her wounds may heal. President Prentiss compels Todd to join the new government, forcing him to participate in terrible acts as an unstoppable army pushes closer and closer.
“The Elite” picks up where “The Selection” ended, with America still in the running to become the wife of Prince Maxon. The competition is quickly growing fiercer, however, as all but six girls have been eliminated. America continues to fall for Maxon, but witnesses some behavior that leaves her doubtful and fearful. As part of the competition, America makes a report on why she believes the society’s caste system should be eliminated, making her a target of the king’s anger.
“The Kill Order” is a prequel to the “Maze Runner” series, explaining the devastation that ultimately led to the creation of WICKED and the maze. Thirteen years ago, solar flares began to strike the Earth, causing devastation and killing millions of people. Survivors banded together amid the destruction, only to be struck down by a devastating disease. In this book like “Divergent,” a new cast of characters must work together to save each other.
In the second book of the “Dwellers” series, Adele has successfully rescued her sister and father, but must leave them and Tristan behind to seek out her mother. Tristan accompanies Adele’s father as they meet with members of the moon dweller realm to discuss the fate of the Tri-Realms. Time is running out as Adele and Tristan wonder if they have a future together.
“The Sun Dwellers” continues the action of the series as Adele engages in a covert operation to assassinate the president of the sun realm. Her mother, General Rose, intends to lead her army against the sun realm to buy her daughter an opportunity to finish her mission. At the same time, Adele must deal with the secrets Tristan has been harboring from her. This book, like “Divergent,” builds its story on government secrets and personal betrayals to create high drama.
The final book of the “Legend” trilogy sees June and Day survive their ordeals to witness a new beginning for their world. However, just as peace is beginning to spread, a new threat arrives in the form of a lethal plague. War once again threatens the Republic, and June must reunite with Day to face this new challenge.
The competition for the crown and Prince Maxon’s heart concludes in “The One.” America Singer must also make a final choice between the two young men she loves. At the same time, threats outside of the palace continue to grow, putting everyone in harm’s way. As with many books like “Divergent”, the many different plot threads running through the trilogy finally come to a stunning end as the series wraps up.