The dystopian YA Thriller, The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, is the story of Thomas, a teen boy who wakes in an elevator with his memory mysteriously wiped. Thomas emerges into the glade, a community of 60 teenage boys who also arrived via elevator without an intact memory. Surrounding the glade is the maze. Some of the boys run the maze, attempting to find an escape. But each night, the topography of the maze changes.
One day, the elevator arrives with the first and only girl. She isn’t conscious, and she has chilling information. And everything changes.
This list of books provides the 20 best in YA dystopian fiction like The Maze Runner. They’re full of mystery, strong protagonists, gritty, social commentary, high-tension science fiction, dystopian themes, and thrilling adventure.
You can buy your copy of The Maze Runner here.
The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a contestant in the reaping when her little sister Primrose is chosen. She is made over and commercialized, leaves her home in district 12, and travels to the capitol where she is forced to fight to the death against other teenager tributes for the entertainment of the elite. This is what they call The Hunger Games.
Each year, the reaping and hunger games are put on to punish the twelve districts for a historic rebellion against the oppressive elitist regime. The districts live in deprivation and poverty. The resources they produce are collected and sent to the capitol for the benefit of the elite.
Katniss and Peeta will fight against the injustice of the system that has entrapped and enslaved them. But, will they live through their rebellion?
You can buy The Hunger Games here.
In Divergent, sixteen-year-old Beatrice and her brother Caleb must take the aptitude test to decide the faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives. Each of the five factions values different attributes in this future dystopian society.
At the end of the test, Beatrice discovers that she is divergent, a rare person who has an affinity for more than one faction. In the choosing ceremony, she chooses a faction that values bravery most highly, Dauntless, leaving behind her home faction.
There she must go through a series of ever more dangerous initiations to be allowed to join the faction. If an initiate doesn’t make it through, they become factionless, a terrible fate.
You can get your copy of Divergent here.
Lord of the Flies
By William Golding
Lord of the Flies is a #1 bestselling 1954 award-winning young adult dystopian story. An airplane crashes at the beginning of a world war, leaving a group of schoolboys on their own on a deserted island with no adults. Which means freedom and celebration at first. But no adults also means no tempering influences, no civilization, and no rules.
This classic dystopian young adult fiction will appeal to fans of The Maze Runner for its gritty, terrifying exploration of warfare, the limits of freedom, and life inside and outside of society.
You can buy Lord of the Flies here.
By Pierce Brown
Red Rising is an intense YA dystopian thriller that will appeal to fans of The Maze Runner. Darrow is a red, one of the lowest caste of people on Mars, working in slavelike conditions digging underground. He believes in the lie, that his work will make Mars liveable for his children one day.
But his wife, Eo, has discovered the truth. She takes him to a place forbidden to reds and shows him the truth – that Mars is already liveable, already colonized on the surface, and higher caste people live in luxury, on the backs of the lowest castes.
You can purchase Red Rising here.
Across the Universe
By Beth Revis
Someone just tried to kill Amy. She survived being unplugged fifty years early from her cryo-sleep on the way to a new planet. And now she’s trapped on the Godspeed, a ship where she knows no one, is governed by a tyrant named Eldest, and customs are as strange as if she’d already landed on an alien planet. In order to survive and save her still-asleep parents, Amy will be forced to choose someone to trust in the midst of a cast of would-be murderers.
The Maze Runner fans will love this YA future dystopian novel for the social commentary, mysterious circumstances, and similar feeling of in medias res (beginning jarringly in the middle).
You can buy Across the Universe here.
By Lois Lowry
The Giver is a Newbery Award-winning classic first published in 1993. In The Giver, Jonas and his family live in a society where emotion, color, and differences have been mostly eradicated. Twelve-year-old Jonas has been chosen to be the memory keeper, to receive his society’s memories of reality, of pain, of joy, of emotion.
This classic tale is set in what initially seems like a future utopia. But like most utopian ideals, it is something closer to a dystopia, where life is stripped of the things that make life worth living.
The Giver is many things that fans of The Maze Runner will love. It is a mystery, a YA dystopian novel, social commentary, and a coming-of-age story.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Randsom Riggs
In this complex YA dystopian read, a family tragedy spurs Jacob to travel to a remote island. There he discovers the strange ruins of a mysterious orphanage. Very little on the island is as it originally seems.
Over time, Jacob comes to realize that the children from Miss Peregrine’s Home are still alive, trapped in a World War II era time-loop. Despite being children, they are also as old as eighty years old and have seen and done far more than normal children do.
This unique bestselling story is now a major motion picture by director Tim Burton. The books include fantastically haunting pictures that add to the strange and dystopian ambiance while providing social commentary and education on the horrors of World War II.
You can buy Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children here.
By Orson Scott Card
In this wartorn dystopia, the government deals in genetic experimentation, creating genius children bred for warfare. At six, child-genius Ender shows preternatural abilities for military leadership, so he undergoes training at government battle school, where he is trained in simulations of how to defeat humanity’s largest foe, the Buggers.
Ender’s siblings, Valentine and Peter, are power-hungry geniuses. But, Peter has a violent psychopathic streak, and Valentine is practically without the ability to do violence, dealing heavily with manipulation instead. Nevertheless, the two are a large influence in Ender’s Game, as they are very jealous of his notoriety and success.
This fantastic, harrowing, action-packed Nebula and Hugo award-winning novel was first published in 1985. It is a must for fans of The Maze Runner.
You can purchase Ender’s Game here.
The 5th Wave
By Rick Yancy
Aliens landed on Earth, and they aren’t our biggest fans. Four waves of Them have arrived, four waves of extermination, killing most of humanity. In The 5th Wave, Cassie is certain that the only way to survive the fifth is to do it alone.
Cassie flees from the Others, humans whose brains have been taken over by aliens. They appear human, but are dangerous and want real humans dead. Cassie tries to rescue her brother alone until she meets the mysterious and fascinating Evan Walker. But can she trust him after so much devastation?
The 5th Wave is a twisty, fast-paced dystopian/post-apocalyptic story perfect for fans of The Maze Runner.
You can buy The 5th Wave here.
By Scott Westerfield
Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and have her surgery to change from being an ‘Ugly’ into what everyone strives to be, a ‘Pretty’. Pretties live a life of parties and pleasure. Which is all Tally wants, until she meets Shay.
Shay doesn’t want to be a Pretty, and runs away before the day they would both have their operations. Tally is torn. Should she join Shay and her cause, or have the surgery and become a Pretty, like she’s always wanted?
The world Westerfield creates presents issues of conformity, inequities in how society treats people of varying beauty, and governmental controls over society.
You can purchase your copy of Uglies here.
Tunnel in the Sky
By Robert A. Heilein
Written in 1955, Tunnel in the Sky is one of the original YA dystopian/ sci-fi novels. In a future overpopulated Earth, people are expanding outward, exploring planets for colonization.
Rod Walker and his classmates in survival school are transported through a tunnel in the sky to a planet slated for potential colonization. They are told it is an ‘advanced solo survival test’ but they quickly each find they’ve been stranded out in the far reaches of space. The story follows Rod as he and his classmates work to survive and build what looks to be their new home.
This twisty, character-driven tale will be great fun for fans of YA dystopian novels like The Maze Runner.
You can buy your copy of Tunnel in the Sky here.
By Michael Grant
In a small California town, suddenly, everyone over fifteen years old vanishes. What’s more, the town has an impenetrable dome overtop it, and none of the children can escape either. Until they turn fifteen and disappear, that is.
The children are left to fend for themselves. They take care of the young as best they can, while all the social disputes of the teenage years still exist, without any adults to temper the situation. To add to the chaos, some of the children find they have superpowers.
This fascinating and highly original series is just the young adult dystopian superhero sci-fi story fans of The Maze Runner are looking for.
You can purchase Gone here.
By Neil Shusterman
In this chilling dystopian future, a second civil war was fought, and the outcome rendered abortion illegal. Conception to age thirteen, life is an inalienable right. But, from age thirteen to eighteen, parents can ‘unwind’ a child. Unwinding gives the parent the right to get rid of the child, by ‘repurposing’ their organs. 99.4 percent of the child’s body is used, and thus the child is not actually being killed.
The story is a multiple-POV novel, told by three children, Connor, Risa, and Lev, all children slated to be unwound. Unwind provides social commentary, gripping emotion, and adrenaline-fueled suspense much like The Maze Runner.
You can buy Unwind here.
By Lauren Oliver
In Delirium, the disease of love is dangerous, and everyone must take the cure that renders them unable to ever love again. Government ‘regulators’ choose who people marry and have children with In this YA dystopia.
Lena, a girl from this alternate United States, meets Alex, a boy who lives underneath the radar of the oppressive government. What if the worst happens, and they fall in love?
This twisty thrilling YA dystopian novel is written in smooth, flowing prose with quick pacing perfect for fans of The Maze Runner.
You can buy Delirium here.
The House of the Scorpion
By Nancy Farmer
Matt’s life has never been easy. He isn’t like most other people. His DNA was harvested from El Patron, the biggest drug lord in the country of Opium. As El Patron’s clone, he is routinely treated inhumanely, bullied, and even his guardian, Celia, the cook at El Patron’s Alacron Estate must hold him hostage. Matt knows who El Patron is, and knows his reputation. But El Patron treats Matt as his most precious progeny, better than his children or his grandchildren.
The House of the Scorpion has won numerous awards. It is a highly imaginative exploration of human relationships, emotion, and loneliness as much as it is a dystopian social commentary and thriller.
You can buy The House of the Scorpion here.
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
Wade Watts is tough, smart, and attractive – when he’s his avatar Percival in the Virtual Reality world known as the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). Like most of the world, Wade spends the majority of his time in the OASIS for school, work, and play.
Ready Player One is set in the 2040s, and the world has seen better days. Fossil fuels are depleted and the world is overpopulated and polluted. Outside of the OASIS, Wade lives in Oklahoma City in the “stacks”, vertically and precariously stacked trailers.
The OASIS creator James Halliday dies and releases a video. He has planted an Easter Egg in the OASIS, and the first player to find it will inherit half a trillion dollars and the proprietorship of his company that runs the OASIS.
This fantastic dystopian thriller follows Wade’s trials as a gunter (egg hunter), traveling through the vast OASIS, meeting avatars that may or may not be like the people behind them, and attempting to avoid assassination.
You can buy Ready Player One here.
By Marie Lu
Fifteen-year-old June is a Republic prodigy, raised to be an elite in the military service. Day, a rebel and wanted criminal, is accused of killing June’s brother. Day becomes the object of June’s obsessive vengeance. But Day may not be what he seems. And perhaps neither is the Republic.
The POV shifts between June and Day, and the contrast in their lives is stark and eye-opening. This suspenseful thriller is full of romance, social criticism, and adventurous action.
You can purchase Legend here.
By Neal Shusterman
Humanity has defeated war, disease, hunger, and even death. That only leaves the ‘scythes’ as those who must glean (murder) to keep the population in check. Citra and Rowen are chosen to be apprenticed to a Scythe. Neither wants anything to do with the role, which is exactly what makes them capable of taking it. They must work to become bringers of death, or else they may face their own deaths.
Scythe is a book full of complex moral questions and wonderfully gray characters. The dystopia that Shusterman creates is as powerful as the choices his teenage protagonists must make.
You can purchase Scythe here.
Alive (Generations Trilogy)
By Scott Sigler
In Alive, a young girl wakes up in a coffin in a place she’s never been. This mysterious and engaging story is about teenagers trapped in a dystopia and is peppered with horror and gore that further the plot and pacing.
The book starts with the author asking the reader not to spoil the story on the internet, so we will refrain from giving away too much. Suffice it to say, Alive is a fascinating story carefully crafted, with excellent characters, and flawless pacing.
This very twisty YA novel is both a dystopian horror story and a post-apocalyptic survival story and is sure to please fans of The Maze Runner.
You can buy Alive: Book One of the Generations Trilogy here.
By Philip Reeve
Thousands of years in the future, the Sixty Minute War happened in their past. Nuclear, biological, particle compressing, quantum energy, and asteroid weapons all hit Earth, changing it significantly.
In this gritty steampunk dystopia, there are major clashes of civilizations, and whole cities have become mobile ‘traction cities’. Now, London is hunting again, and will soon descend upon smaller, weaker cities and devour them, folding their resources into itself.
Tom is a fifteen-year-old apprentice historian at a London museum tasked with retrieving ancient tech artifacts. Tom’s trajectory changes when a mysterious girl with a severe facial scar attacks his idol, lead historian and archaeologist, Valentine.
Tom speaks to the would-be attacker, Hester, who tells him Valentine is responsible for an attack on her and her family. Both teenagers are stranded in London and must find a way back while fighting the realities of living in a world ruled by corrupt power and traction cities.
You can buy Mortal Engines here.
What’s after The Maze Runner?
After The Maze Runner (2009), comes The Scorch Trials (2010) and The Death Cure (2011). There are two novels that are prequels, The Kill Order (2012) and The Fever Code (2016). There is also Crank Palace (2020), a novella, and a companion book called The Maze Runner Files (2013).
What should I read if I liked The Maze Runner?
You should look at the list above for suggestions. Here’s a list of the first 10:
• The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
• Divergent by Veronica Roth
• Lord of the Flies by Willian Golding
• Red RIsing by Pierce Brown
• Across the Universe by Beth Revis
• The Giver by Lois Lowry
• Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Randsom Riggs
• Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
• The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy
• Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Can a 14-year-old read Maze Runner?
The Maze Runner is aimed at teens, and appropriate for ages 12-18, but adults also love to read this book and The Maze Runner Series.
Does Maze Runner have a 4th book?
Yes. It is titled Maze Runner: The Kill Order (2012), and it is a prequel to The Maze Runner trilogy.
Will there be a 5th Maze Runner book?
Yes. The 5th Maze Runner book is now out, a prequel called The Fever Code (2016).
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