15 Books Similar to Divergent

The cast of Insurgent attended the premier of the movie in New York.

Fifteen Dystopian Novels Similar to “Divergent.”

It’s little wonder in the wake of a decades-long war, financial crises, and a quickly warming planet that the dystopian novel has captured the collective pop-culture imagination with such intensity.

Victoria Roth’s “Divergent” is one such exploration of a bleak future, the first novel of a series portraying a post-apocalyptic Chicago that maintains control by compelling every member to choose their place in society by the age of 16. The reader experiences this world through the eyes of Tris, a 16-year-old girl who must choose between her family and her own aspirations.

Tris’s decision leads her down a path with explosive consequences for herself and her family. She battles to find her place in society while encountering cruelty and love in equal measures.

Published in 2011, the book topped The New York Times’s Young Adult Best Seller list for most of 2011 through 2013. It has also won multiple Goodreads Readers’ Choice awards.

Table of Contents

Young Adult Novels

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Book 1)

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Awaking in an elevator with no memory of his past, Thomas emerges to find himself in a grassy meadow with two other boys. Surrounding the Glade is a high wall, the Maze. The elevator occasionally delivers food or a new member of the group.

Thomas must discover the secret behind the Maze and his own true identity if he and the rest of the group are to survive this predicament.

Thematically, the book shares a similarity to “Divergent” in its use of a young protagonist coming of age in an apocalyptic setting. Friendship, loyalty, fighting to survive and darker forces at work are also explored.

The novel won the Whitney Award for Best Youth Fiction and the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

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Young Katniss uses her hunting skills to help her family survive. When her delicate younger sister is chosen as a tribute to be sent to the decadent Capitol ruling their country of Panem, Katniss offers to go in her place. Katniss must navigate the unfamiliar culture of the Capitol and use her skills and wits in a dangerous game that could cost her life.

A struggle for survival, young love, totalitarian oppression and coming of age are all similar themes to “Divergent” that readers will find in this book.

“The Hunger Games” received 15 literary awards, among them Publisher Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year,” the Golden Duck Award for Young Adult Fiction and the California Young Reader Medal.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember (The City of Ember Book 1)

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The city of Ember lies deep underground, beneath the apocalyptic ruins of a once-great civilization. The city’s Founders secured its existence, but so much time has passed that now the lights flicker and basic services are poised to fail. Lina, the descendant of one of the historic Mayors, discovers a box that could hold the key to saving the city.

The novel shares the idea of a quest that reveals the true nature of the world with “Divergent,” as well as coming of age, the importance of friendship, and a society divided into an elaborate caste system.

“Ember” was awarded the 2006 Mark Twain Award, the 2006 William Allen White Children’s Book Award and the 2003 Child Magazine’s Best Children’s Book.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One: A Novel

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It is 2045, and humanity stands on the brink of a catastrophic climate crisis. Most people use a virtual reality world as a means of entertainment and an escape from the drudgery of reality. The creator of this virtual word left a tantalizing quest with a series of clues to be followed in order to win an extraordinary prize.

Wade Watts, a teen living in poverty, solves the first clue, vaulting him into intense competition with other players for the ultimate prize.

The novel shares the themes of camaraderie and competition leading to bettering one’s lot in life.

It received the Alex Award from the American Library Association and the 2011 Prometheus Award.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

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The Community is perfect, having eliminated starvation and war, and even inclement weather. For Jonas, a 12-year-old anticipating being assigned the role he will fulfill throughout his life, it is all he’s ever known. That is, until he’s passed over for a mundane role in favor of becoming the Receiver of Memory, where he will learn the true nature of how the Community became so perfect.

The story depicts a society stratified into castes, a similarity it shares with “Divergent,” as well as themes of family, tradition and exploring the true nature of reality.

The novel won the 1994 Newbery Medal, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, the 1994 Regina Medal, and many other awards.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

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In preparation for a battle to save humanity from alien invasion, young children are trained in military tactics. Ender is one such trainee, but his innate genius sets him apart from the rest. He must use all of his talents and the skills he’s learned if he is to succeed in the coming battle.

The theme of possessing an innate difference from others is a commonality the novel shares with “Divergent,” in addition to the competition, a stratified society, and complicated familial relationships.

The novel received the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale: The Novel

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An alternate universe where Japan won World War II is the setting for a government program that kidnaps and pits high school-age children against one another to exert fear and control of the populace. Shuya and his fellow students attempt to survive using wits and skill, but on the deserted island where they find themselves, it’s kill or be killed.

Familiar themes of battling to establish a place for oneself in the world, government control, camaraderie, and betrayal give this dystopian novel a tight similarity with “Divergent.”

The novel was among those chosen to compete for the 1997 Japan Horror Fiction Award but was later barred due to its then-controversial theme of students battling each other.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (1)

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Cia looks forward to the Testing, a selection process that will determine what university she’ll attend, but an enigmatic warning from her father regarding his own Testing leads her to believe things aren’t as rosy as she’s been told. The Testing begins with a routine and mundane examination of scholastic ability, but the next challenges Cia must endure to win a place at the University will test her will to survive and the lengths she’s willing to go in order to succeed.

Themes in common with “Divergent” include a violent selection process to determine one’s future, a society struggling to define itself in the wake of an apocalyptic event, young love, betrayal and coming of age as a result of hardship.

It won the Anthony Award for the Best Young Adult novel.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising

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Darrow is 16 years old and married, a member of the servile Red class, who must labor mining helium-3 for the ruling Gold class, who wish to use it to terraform the planet Mars. Brutality by the Gold regime against his wife pitches Darrow headlong into a fight to bring justice and social equality to the lower classes.

Impersonating a member of the Gold class, Darrow finds himself forced into a competition with other Gold citizens whom he will have to outwit or overpower if he is to succeed in his quest for freedom from servility.

A hybrid novel spanning the gap between young adult and adult fiction, “Red Rising” shares a society comprised of various castes, a fight to better oneself, young love, government oppression and tragic family circumstances with “Divergent”.

The novel won the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Debut Goodreads Author.

Adult Fiction

The Running Man by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman

The Running Man: A Novel

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It is the year 2025, and society has fallen into a level of decadence and decay to the point where outright blood sport becomes high entertainment and a means of escaping grim reality. Ben Richards finds himself forced into a horrific, government-run game show as the only means to save his family from the consequences of their extreme poverty.

He must evade capture for long enough to win sufficient prize money and ease the suffering of his family. A desperate trek ensues, with Ben utilizing every strategy he can concoct to live just one more hour.

“The Running Man” shares the themes of government oppression, familial loyalty, competition to elevate one’s social class and survival against the odds with “Divergent”.

While “The Running Man” did not win any major awards, it received a film adaptation based on the story.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

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The World State rules humanity, eliminating pregnancy in favor of growing infants in a hatchery, sorting every member into social levels based on their usefulness and drugging them with a medication called “Soma” to keep them compliant. A psychiatrist named Bernard Marx becomes a vocal critic of this practice, an action that threatens his life.

In order to defuse his precarious situation, he takes a vacation outside the World State to New Mexico, where a settlement of Native Americans lives free from World State control. Bernard brings two ex-World State members he meets there home with him, in order to show this oddity with his own society. This decision launches a chain of unforeseen and explosive consequences.

As the forerunner of many dystopian novels, it shares themes of government oppression, stratified society, fighting societal norms and young love in common with “Divergent”.

The novel ranked at number five on the Modern Library list of the 100 Best English-Language Novels and won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit in 1959.

On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel

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In the ruins of Baltimore, now known as B-Mor, society has rebuilt itself after cataclysmic events. Fan, a 16-year-old girl, maintains a tank of genetically engineered fish that are sent to feed the upscale Charter settlements. Finding herself pregnant, Fan leaves B-Mor on a quest to locate the father of her child after he mysteriously disappears, traveling across a vastly altered America that presents unimaginable dangers.

The novel has many parallels with “Divergent”, including young love, loyalty, caste systems, government oppression, and survival in dystopian circumstances.

The novel won the American Library Association’s Notable Book of the Year award for 2015.

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand

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In the aftermath of a worldwide pandemic, survivors fight to find their place in this new world, divided mystically into either good or evil factions by vision-like dreams. While the good find everyday challenges that come with rebuilding a functioning society, the evil engages in challenges of a more visceral sort — violent blood sports for the amusement of Randall Flagg, their enigmatic leader, leading to an explosive confrontation between the two societies.

Quite different on the face of it, “The Stand” shares deep parallels with “Divergent” in the use of fighting to establish one’s place in society, loyalty and betrayal, the conflict of good versus evil, and love conquering all.

The won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Horror Novel and the Balrog Award for Best Novel, among others.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

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The Republic of Gilead rises from the ashes of a cataclysm it strategically created, ruling the former United States with a Biblically-inspired iron grip and punishing or rewarding its citizens with placement in one of the various castes. Offred is a member of the Handmaids, a servile group meant to increase Gilead’s flagging fertility rates by giving birth to babies meant for influential families.

Desperate to conceive, as it will keep her from being sent to a Colonies work camp, Offred must find any means necessary to have a child for her assigned family.

While on the face of it, they are very different stories, “The Handmaid’s Tale” shares quite a bit in common with “Divergent”, including government oppression, a society divided into castes as a means of control, struggling to find one’s place in the world in the aftermath of traumatic events and loyalty to one’s family.

It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in 1987 and was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize in 1986.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota (Terra Ignota, 1)

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Mycroft Canner is a servile criminal, made to help his fellow citizens as a punishment for his crimes. He discovers an earth-shattering secret that could upend his carefully constructed society. Mycroft finds himself joining forces with a group in order to protect the secret from those who might abuse the power.

Sharing themes of hidden and unique abilities, a stratified society, utopian living at the expense of others, and secretive machinations of a repressive regime, there’s much that unites this with the story of “Divergent,” even though they also have wildly differing plots.

It received the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel in 2017.

References:

Veronica Roth Official Site

James Dashner Official Site

Jeanne Duprau Official Site

Ernest Cline Official Site

Lois Lowry Official Site

Hat Rack

Wikipedia: Koushun Takami

Joelle Charbonneau Official Site

Pierce Brown Official Site

Stephen King Official Site

Aldous Huxley Official Site

Book Forum: On Such A Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee

Simon and Schuster: Margaret Atwood

Ada Palmer Official Site

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