The 20 Best YA Thriller Books Like Legend by Marie Lu

Non-stop pulse-pounding action ignites the pages of Legend, a young adult sci-fi thriller by Marie Lu. Espionage, war, romance, and politics build the fast-paced dystopian novel. Get your heart racing with these 20 books similar to Legend!

The 20 Best YA Thriller Books Like Legend by Marie Lu

About Legend by Marie Lu

In the future, a split North America is constantly at war. 

The Republic means something very different to fifteen-year-olds June and Day. For June, who is wealthy and smart, the Republic is the land she wishes to defend when she joins the military. For Day, a street criminal stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, the Republic is an empire that needs crumbling.

When dire circumstances bring these two teens together, they’ll have to sharpen their wits and uncover the ultimate truth in a place brimming with lies. 

This thrilling young adult book sets the standard for the genre and will keep readers thumbing through the pages until the very last line. 

Read on to discover 20 thrilling books like Legend!

About Marie Lu

Marie Lu graduated from the University of Southern California and worked for Disney Interactive Studios before pursuing her career in writing. 

She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Young Elites trilogy, the Legend trilogy, the Warcross duology, and the Skyhunter duology. Lu specializes in dystopian science fiction and is known for her immersive world-building, well-developed characters, and action-packed scenes. 

You can find all of Marie Lu’s books here!

20 Best YA Thriller Books Like Legend 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades (Renegades, 1)

In a dystopian society where superheroes are known as the Renegades and villains are called Anarchists, Adrian and Nova are on opposing sides. 

But when Nova, an Anarchist sworn to revenge, goes undercover to try and infiltrate the Renegades, secret identities are exposed. Lines of good and evil are blurred and crossed.

You can get the first book in the Renegades trilogy by Marissa Meyer here!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe (1) (Arc of a Scythe)

The only way to die in this dystopian young adult novel is to be gleaned by scythes: reapers who kill to keep a handle on population control in a world without agony or war. 

Two teen apprentices vie for the position of scythe despite not wanting the profession, with a devastating realization: the one who gets it will have to kill the other. 

You can get this dark and thrilling battle royale novel by Neal Shusterman here!

After the End by Amy Plum

After the End (After the End, 1)

Juneau lives with her small clan in the Alaskan wilderness after the devastation and destruction of World War III. 

At least, that’s what she believes. 

But after a hunting trip, Juneau discovers the truth: there was no war, her clan is missing, and everything she knows is a lie. 

Like Legend, After the End is a fast-paced dystopian novel about secrets and the unraveling of the truth. You can find the book here!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium (Delirium Trilogy, 1)

In this award-winning novel by Lauren Oliver, high school senior Lena Haloway lives in a dystopian future where vigilantism is encouraged, love is considered a disease, and pain doesn’t have to exist. 

When she turns eighteen, Lena plans to get the procedure done to rid her of love. But then she meets Alex, a “Wilds” boy who doesn’t follow the government’s rules, makes her question everything, and ignites feelings she’s never felt or wanted until now. 

Delirium follows Lena’s internal journey of compliance, curiosity, and, eventually, resistance. You can get this exciting YA dystopian book here!

The Q by Amy Tintera

The Q

What once was Austin, Texas, is now a quarantine zone where no one comes in or leaves due to a deadly disease that ravaged the city and killed thousands. 

Until Lennon Pierce, the teenage son of a US presidential candidate, is kidnapped and dropped into the Q. Now everyone is after him, including Maisie, the daughter of one of the most brutal gang leaders. After a temporary antidote to the disease, Lennon and Maisie must work together to get him out in 48 hours or face the consequences inside and outside the Q.

Like Legend by Marie Lu, The Q by Amy Tintera follows two teenagers from opposing sides on an action-packed journey. You can get The Q here

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker)

The United States is a war-torn, destroyed land pulled apart by climate change and civil wars. 

Two orphans and refugees, Mahlia and Mouse, escape the Drowned Cities for the jungle, where they are separated. Now Mahlia must decide: flee to safety alone or give everything to save a friend. 

The Drowned Cities is a dark, thrilling adventure about friendship, war, loyalty, and loss. 

You can get this companion novel to Paolo Bacigalupi’s acclaimed Ship Breaker here!

The Stranded by Sarah Daniels

The Stranded

The Arcadia was a luxurious cruise ship until an apocalyptic war trapped its passengers. For forty years, it’s floated off the coastline of the Federated States, where refugees are forced to live aboard. 

For Esther, a loyal citizen aboard the ship, and Nik, a rebel who dreams of liberating Arcadia, change is inevitable when a chaotic series of events throws them together. 

You can get the dystopian young adult thriller here

Bluescreen by Dan Wells

Bluescreen (Mirador, 1)

Malware and viruses pose a deadly threat to humans in 2050 when the internet connects to the brain. 

A new drug turns people into puppets, and it’s up to seventeen-year-old Marisa and her friends to investigate and untangle the mystery behind the threats. 

Several key plot points combine to make Bluescreen a rapid techno-thriller read. You can get the first novel in the series here!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, 1)

Juliette is a weapon, her touch lethal in the dictatorship of The Reestablishment. 

Diseases, famine, and war plague the planet as Juliette is locked away for murder. But she just might be what The Reestablishment needs as a weapon and warrior. 

Tahereh Mafi writes a suspenseful dystopian sci-fi romance in the widely popular Shatter Me series. You can get the first novel here

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series

Each wave of alien invasion brings more devastation and destruction to the Earth. 

On the horizon of the 5th wave, Cassie is on the run searching for her brother when she meets Evan Walker. But who is he, and what does he know? He could be the answer or the problem, and Cassie must face a world set on destroying her.

You can get the first novel of The 5th Wave series here

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, 1)

A thief and a dynasty leader are reluctant allies in this detailed and gripping novel about two opposing sides caught up in a cat-and-mouse game. 

Lie after lie passes between them, yet Kazi and Jase fall for each other against all odds or reasoning. Similar to Legend in its two strong main characters, A Dance of Thieves is a detailed young adult novel. 

You can get the first book in the duology here

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Book 1)

In the megahit book series-turned-blockbuster-films, Suzanne Collins writes about Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl in District 12 who gambles for her life every time she hunts to feed her family. 

In a future North America, Panem is split into twelve districts and set against each other annually for The Hunger Games, a deadly competition between children of every district. And when Katniss volunteers for the deadly competition in her sister’s place, she gambles at an even greater risk. 

This award-winning book is perfect for fans of Marie Lu’s Legend. You can get The Hunger Games here

A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

A Thousand Heartbeats

Princess Annika of Kadier is about to be forced into a loveless marriage when she meets a Dahrainian enemy soldier and falls in love. 

A Thousand Heartbeats is an intense, emotional read with secrets, intrigue, and two characters on opposite sides of society, much like Legend by Marie Lu. You can get the book by Kiera Cass here

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades

Wealthy, perfect students attend Niveus Private Academy. 

For Devon Richards and Chiamak Adebayo, senior year is off to a fantastic start. Both students are selected for senior class prefects and have their futures laid before them for the taking. 

Until Aces, an anonymous texter brings the students’ secrets they’ve tried so hard to keep buried to light. The longer the cat-and-mouse game goes on, the more dangerous it becomes. 

Twists and secrets propel this novel toward a shocking conclusion, similar to Legend

You can get Aces of Spades here

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Grace Year

In their sixteenth year, girls in Garner County are banished for the year to purify themselves in preparation for marriage. But some will not return home. 

Tierney James longs for a life in a society free of bitterness, judgment, and the grace year. But it’s a game of survival, and Tierney faces threats mentally, emotionally, and physically as she navigates relationships while staying alive. 

You can get this gritty and intense award-winning novel featuring strong female characters here

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Gone Dark

Lights out. 

The country loses power and descends into panic and terror after a malware attack on the United States throws everyone into darkness. 

With skills from a life left behind, it’s up to 17-year-old Zara to lead her friends across the country to a survivalist compound safe haven. 

Gone Dark is a suspenseful survival story that will leave readers breathless with anticipation. You can get the novel here

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

The Initial Insult (Initial Insult, 1)

An intensely dark and gritty book, The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis kicks off the duology and follows a twisty revenge plot. 

Tress Montor has nothing left. Her parents disappeared, her best friend abandoned her, and she lives with an alcoholic grandfather on a trashy farm-turned-zoo. Meanwhile, her ex-best friend Felicity has a perfect life. She’s popular, has friends, and was there the night Tress’s parents disappeared, though she claims she doesn’t remember. 

Fed up, Tress hatches a plan of revenge involving a basement, a pile of bricks, and a coal chute as she slowly entombs her former best friend question by question, lie by lie, brick by brick. 

You can get this creepy Edgar Allen Poe-inspired novel here!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

Laia lives under the strict and harsh Martial Empire. When her brother gets arrested for treason, Laia stops at nothing to go after him, even if it means going undercover at the expense of her freedom. 

Like Legend, An Ember in the Ashes has a complex world and fast-paced plot points to keep hearts racing. You can get the first book in the series here

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves: A Novel

After making a deal with scientists, a lone girl must learn to trust a feral wolf to escape across the dangerous tundra on a frozen planet. 

But skill and caution aren’t enough to prepare Sena for the deadly and dangerous trip or the unforgiving climate.

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a dystopian book about found family and what it takes to survive while protecting the ones you care about most. 

Warcross by Marie Lu


Emika Chen, a teenage bounty hunter, is tasked with going undercover to expose a dangerous plot after hacking into and tracking illegal betting on Warcross, the virtual reality video game taking the world by storm. 

Marie Lu pens another thrilling read with Warcross, and fans of Legend are sure to enjoy the rest of her series, including this award-winning bestseller! 

You can get the first novel here!

Final Thoughts

Exposed secrets, heart-racing action, thick tension, and opposing sides combine to make a thrilling young adult novel like Legend by Marie Lu. 

In threatened worlds and wars of all kinds, the 20 books on this list will deliver the same amount of high-stakes action, intricate world-building, and powerful main characters that fans loved about Marie Lu’s debut novel. 

We hope you find your next favorite young adult dystopian thrill on this list!


Is the Legend series a romance?

Legend by Marie Lu does have romance, though it is not the plot’s primary focus. The main characters, Day and June, are the central romance in the series, though there is a love square.

Is it worth it to read Legend?

Legend is an award-winning series described as a “cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes” by Kirkus Book Reviews. It is a #1 New York Times bestseller and a novel told in multiple first-person narratives. Fans of thrilling dystopian books will love Legend!

Is there a movie for Legend by Marie Lu?

Legend was set to get an on-screen adaptation in the form of a movie that was then changed to a TV series. Joseph Muszynski was set to write the screenplay.

How many pages is Legend by Marie Lu?

Legend by Marie Lu is 352 pages long.

Is the Legend series a trilogy?

There are four books in Marie Lu’s bestselling series. The books include Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel.

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Taylor Brazzill