Book Recommendation for my Mom
August 22, 2014 5:00 PM   Subscribe

My mom dropped out of high school when she was 15 and never reads for pleasure. She (inexplicably) started reading the Hunger Games and devoured the trilogy in two weeks. As far as I know, that's the only book she's ever completed. I'm looking for something that she'll enjoy on the same level of the Hunger Games trilogy. I've tried to figure out what it is that she likes about the trilogy but she can't really say why she enjoyed them so much. She just says she just couldn't stop reading them.
posted by R.F.Simpson to Society & Culture (43 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The Hunger Games is one of approximately eleventy zillion series of YA novels with female protagonists in a vaguely SF/dystopian/"speculative" setting, often dealing with themes of coming of age, finding your place in the world, fitting in, etc.

In all honesty, if she liked the Hunger Games trilogy you could probably point her at the YA section of any bookstore or library and she could just pick up any book with a cover or title that intrigued her, and probably get a similar level of enjoyment. The fact that she "just generally liked it for whatever reason" is going to make this easier, not harder.

Divergent comes immediately to mind for me, though, as a series of books that sounds superficially extremely similar to Hunger Games.
posted by Sara C. at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2014

The Divergent series is pretty popular and has an overlap with Hunger Games readers. You can see the Goodreads list of suggested books for lovers of The Hunger Games here (the Giver might especially be good?) and maybe it would help sort out what she's looking for: engaging action, dystopias, teenage adventure, series, female heroines, sci-fi, fantasy...
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:09 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Harry Potter? Twilight? Just thinking of other popular YA series.
posted by amro at 5:10 PM on August 22, 2014

Harry Potter? The Maze Runner series is not bad. Divergent is pretty good too. Marget Atwood is really good too - The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake are favorites of mine.
posted by tealcake at 5:11 PM on August 22, 2014

They're very suspenseful pageturners, basically, with an appealing protagonist and lots of action. I'd look for extremely popular young-adult oriented books.

One great choice would be Ender's Game. It's a science fiction classic about a boy who's learning to fight in a very special way in an SF universe.
posted by shivohum at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Island of the Blue Dolphins is an oldie but a goodie. It has the female protagonist + survival elements.
posted by bleep at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

In terms of super readable, female protagonist, fun-but-deep, I'm endlessly suggesting people read the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Bonus, the next (last? who knows) book in the series comes out in a few months, so your mom could have the fun of a new release.

If she'd like something that generally swings towards funny and happy, but still full of adventure and great characters (and sometimes romance, but it's not usually the main thrust of a plot), practically any book by Diana Wynne Jones is a good bet.

Back on the sci-fi end of things, she might be intrigued by Diamond Age, which I think has become more readable as technology irl gains more similarities with the tech in the book.
posted by Mizu at 5:23 PM on August 22, 2014

The Divergent series is good but I really like to send people to the Starglass books by our own PhoBiWanKenobi.
posted by BibiRose at 5:24 PM on August 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

The Outlander series (first book is called Outlander).
posted by Lyn Never at 5:24 PM on August 22, 2014

I don't think liking Hunger Games means that she LOVES dystopian/sci-fi stories or MUST have female protagonists. I mean... EVERYONE loves the Hunger Games. I would definitely go with Harry Potter, just for the variety and because it's actually very well-written.
posted by acidic at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Diane Duane's books might also be good, though they're far more PG in terms of action. (I also love Diana Wynne Jones and Garth Nix, though they're much more fantasy not sci-fi.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

What makes the Hunger Games so compulsively readable is that Every. Single. Chapter ends with a cliffhanger. The first book, particularly, has the narrative momentum of a steamroller. I think Collins isn't a particularly good prose stylist or world-builder (argh the world-building in THG!), but she knows how to keep you reading!

What your mom likes, I think, is that momentum. So looking for other dystopian narratives isn't the solution: you need to find her well-written adventure stories, books described as "Unputdownable!" by the blurbs.

Of course, I can't think of anything specific right now, but that would be my recommendation: fast-paced adventure stories with likeable characters.
posted by suelac at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

The Golden Compass and sequels?
posted by antiquated at 5:34 PM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stephen King is pretty un-put-down-able and compulsively readable, but might be a little intimidatingly large. His short stories are great, though; very accessible.

In YA, Tamora Pierce's novels are ten times as good as Hunger Games, and feature similar fierce female coming-of-age heroines. Scott Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy is a similar future dystopia with a female protagonist, and it's pretty damn readable (and, again, I think higher-quality than the Hunger Games). "The City of Ember" and sequels by Jeanne DuPrau were very popular for junior high lit teachers a few years ago, before the Hunger Games; I liked "Ember" (didn't read the sequels).

Divergent and Harry Potter are definitely the natural cousins to Hunger Games.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:38 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first 3 or so Harry Potters are hard to get through, in my opinion. She wrote them for such young kids that they are tedious.

I wish we knew what she loved about them. Is it the fast pace? The Dystopia?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:39 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also haven't loved Tamora Pierce. The books of hers I've read have also been childish compared to Hunger Games. I didn't feel the Hunger Games was written to be THAT young. I think the Stephen King comparisons are apt.

What about some of the books that used to be adult but are now YA?

Like Ender's Game, as shivohum suggests, or Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword (okay that was always YA but it was often shelved with the regular fantasy), or Farenheit 451, The Left Hand of Darkness (maybe too slow moving?), Raymond Chandler novels.

Ooh. What about Graceling? It's new. Has an interesting heroine. It moves pretty quickly. It has violence, which can be a plus or a minus, but if she didn't mind Catching Fire's gore, Graceling's should be no problem. It reads a year or two younger than Hunger Games to me, but I ripped through it, no problem.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:51 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if she'd like Dune.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:56 PM on August 22, 2014

What about some of the books that used to be adult but are now YA?

Oh, yeah. Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Also, The Shadow Children series is shelved in the kids' section but it's a wonderful dystopian series.
posted by BibiRose at 6:04 PM on August 22, 2014

Gail Carriger's Souless is an enormously fun read. I have not read the other books in the Parasol Protectorate series yet, but if she enjoys the first...
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read these YA books as a hobby, they are such good fun! Yay for your mom (I love reading and get all excited when others enjoy a good book)!

Honestly, the Divergent series is my favorite. I read it after Hunger Games.

I also really enjoyed Battle Royale, which Hunger Games is arguably based on.
posted by mamabear at 6:28 PM on August 22, 2014

If she's looking for purely unputdownable, not necessarily quality, the Dan Brown books can't be beat. He does the same "cliffhanger at the end of every single chapter" thing.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 6:31 PM on August 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

I DO NOT ADVISE you to think that because Hunger Games is science fiction that she would like to read other science fiction. And don't assume that she needs something labelled Young Adult to match her reading level; even things that seem "too difficult" can be read slowly with pleasure if the interest is there.

Instead of flailing around trying to find another hit, take the woman in and get her a library card! Go with her so it's not so intimidating. Remind her that librarians love to talk about books, and love to see books go in and out, and love to request books and put books on reserve. I check out dozens of books from the library, and actually read no more than one out of every dozen I check out (if I'm lucky). If she's not used to books and reading, she needs to be reminded that she only has to read what she enjoys. Yippee! Now she knows it can be fun, and the sky's the limit.

And after all the above, I'm going to go ahead and make a recommendation myself: The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula LeGuin, beloved by middle schoolers and elderly ladies alike.
posted by kestralwing at 6:33 PM on August 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe The Da Vinci Code? I didn't think it was great, but I recall that it had such short chapters that I would think, "just one more chapter before I put it down," and then five more chapters would slip by.
posted by tomboko at 6:54 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually that's a really good point, I hate read Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons in about a single day because all complaints aside they're very fast paced and full of cliffhanger chapters.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:57 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you seen this Buzzfeed listicle?
posted by juliplease at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Dragon Tattoo trilogy!!!

The Silence of the Lambs!!! (but maybe not the sequels)
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:31 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel like the Beautiful Creatures series had the same momentum as the Hunger Games series, and had the same level of action / drama / romance, although everything else about them is different. I couldn't put them down.
posted by erst at 8:59 PM on August 22, 2014

And after all the above, I'm going to go ahead and make a recommendation myself: The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula LeGuin, beloved by middle schoolers and elderly ladies alike.

I appear to be the only person--and LeGuin fan--who doesn't love these books. I keep trying but they never grab me. I don't know why. I love everything else she's done.

Her Annals of the Western Shore books are good: Gifts, Voices and Powers.

Your mom might like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (modern day, still kickass woman protagonist/thriller).
posted by emjaybee at 10:03 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also seconding Tamora Pierce (start with the Alanna series) and nthing Divergent.

Isobelle Carmody also writes heroine focused adventure/fantasty books which are written for a slightly older audience compared to the above. Two good series are Darkfall and Obernewtyn. Scatterlings is another one which is a bit lighter. I'm not sure where you are but she's fairly well known in Australia at least.

Also recommend the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, in the same vein as the above and very easy to read.
posted by herschellie at 10:21 PM on August 22, 2014

Oh Oh Oh - She'll love Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate Series - I've loaned my set out many times and everyone loves them!

Start with Soulless, then Changeless, then Blameless, then Heartless and then Timeless.

Easy reading, very funny, a strong female lead but great characters all the way around.
posted by aryma at 11:00 PM on August 22, 2014

The Hunger Games has marvellous narrative clarity and good momentum: the reader gets a strong picture of what's happening and something else happens every two pages or so. It has a matter-of-fact tone and no hifalutin language. So here is a suggestion out of left field, another book with a strong narrative drive, dramatic situations, plain language and a relatable female protagonist: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie.
posted by glasseyes at 2:40 AM on August 23, 2014

Earthsea; yes. Or Twilight.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:50 AM on August 23, 2014

Came to suggest the same list that julieplease mentioned. I thought Partials was pretty good and has the same feel and pace of The Hunger Games.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:19 AM on August 23, 2014

If you want something not YA or dystopian, I would suggest the Stephanie Plum series, starting with One for the Money. I think there are now 21 books in the series about a female bounty hunter with an attitude. They are fast paced, very funny, with a mystery in each one. Throw in some hot love interests and crazy relatives and twisting plots for some great entertainment.

I heard the movie was terrible so if she saw that, I think the books are much better.
posted by maxg94 at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about Barbara Kingsolver's books, starting with her earliest ones? They're not scifi or fantasy. Her characters are very approachable and unpretentious, her writing is lovely.
posted by mareli at 9:21 AM on August 23, 2014

Hunger Games is fun to read because it's fast-paced, escapist, dramatic, has lots of cliffhangers, and is not written on a super-high reading level (I don't mean to knock it, I actually really enjoyed the series). I'd recommend Twilight for the same reasons. Both are "fantasy" but the world is close enough to our own world that it's relatable.

Does she like to watch Law & Order or other detective shows/movies? The Lincoln Lawyer is a good book. Fun to read, good characters, plot twists.
posted by radioamy at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2014

I agree with emjaybee about the Earthsea Trilogy (except for some reason I love The Other Wind, which is a new installment). It moves slow. It also has super detached language and wizards. That's a harder sell than Hunger Games's matter of factness.

I could NOT get through Dan Brown or Twilight. With the DaVinci Code I actually caught myself yelling at the characters for being so fucking dense. I ended up skipping to the last chapters to see how things turned out. Ugh.

I don't know if this is too young, but I really liked The Girl of the Limberlost for its straight-forward language, and no nonsense-ness.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2014

I teach an English class for students like your mom--adults who didn't finish high school and usually don't read for pleasure. The Hunger Games is a real gateway book series for them--they'll read it in one gulp and then ask for other books like THG. I'll be following these suggestions with interest because I'm always looking for more ideas.

Here are some of the books my students have enjoyed, either as a class or on their own:

The Giver and Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon and Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Help by Katherine Stockett
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
and yeah, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code books and Twilight.

Personally, I like some of these books and dislike others, but a few things they all seem to have in common are

1) they're fast-paced with high stakes
2) the reading level isn't frustrating for most people
3) each chapter tends to end in a way that leaves you wanting to know what happens next (not necessarily Dan Brown style clunky cliffhangers though! Sometimes it's through POV switches)
3) the characters are written so you immediately form strong opinions about them (likeable protagonist, awful villain)
4) there's always at least one character you're really rooting for.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a result of this question I finally buckled down and started looking for a new book to use with my class this semester, and I came across this: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden:
When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong — their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back. (Publisher's description)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Patrick Ness, More Than This. YA sci-fi, cracking page-turner, slow reveal with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.
posted by verstegan at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2014

I thought Westerfeld's Uglies Series is very similar to the Hunger Games.
posted by oceano at 6:40 PM on August 23, 2014

She might enjoy the thriller/zombie "Newsflesh" trilogy Feed, Deadline, and Blackout by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)
posted by Mitheral at 11:47 PM on August 23, 2014

I've read all 7 Tomorrow when the war began began books, and I think it did it in 3 days.

Very enjoyable and easy to power through series.

Get on it!
posted by Youremyworld at 5:39 PM on August 24, 2014

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