I absolutely loved reading The Giver by Lois Lowrey. I first read it when I was in high school, despite the fact it was banned in many state schools because of its offensive language, explicit scenes, and sensitive topic of euthanasia…but what’s life if you always play by the rules?
The Giver is possibly one of the most acclaimed dystopian coming-of-age novels of all time. It has a morally driven storyline, that touches themes of prejudice, loneliness, and the importance of individuality.
If like me you read The Giver and found it thought-provoking, deeply moving and captivating. Then you’ll love these other books similar to The Giver.
Summary of The Giver (no spoilers!)
Before I go into the best novels like The Giver, let’s quickly recap what happened in The Giver. Don’t worry, if you haven’t read The Giver yet but it’s on the top of your reading list, I won’t contain any spoilers here.
It takes place in a futuristic world where society is created equal. There are no crimes and everyone is happy. Everyone looks the same and everything is chosen for you by The Giver. Everything from the life you live, to your parents, is chosen for you. Free of choice, free of worries, right?
When you reach the age of 12, you are assigned a job which you will train for, for the rest of your life.
Jonas is assigned the job of Memory Keeper. When the world first transitioned over to this new harmonious state, they abandoned all memories of war, pain and suffering. It is Jonas’s job to look after these memories.
The Giver passes memories to Jonas, some of sadness, some of joy, but as Jonas sees more and more memories, he realises his life is missing something. He feels his life is bland and pointless.
The memories create a more meaningful life for Jonas, and he starts to learn more about prejudice, diversity, and morality. Throughout the book you see Jonas become wiser, more emotional, and more challenging.
As Jonas grows up he witnesses more sensitive topics, and the way he deals with learning more about these topics and grows in maturity, is what makes this book so iconic (and ironically, one of the main reasons it was banned in America).
If you love books from dystopian worlds and storylines that have you contemplating life, then The Giver is the right book for you.
Acclaimed Books Similar to The Giver
Now you know the basic summary of The Giver, you have some idea of what these epic novels will have in store for you. If it sounds like one for your bookshelf, read on to find out the best acclaimed books similar to The Giver.
1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The English boarding school Hailsham was located in a pleasant land. It was far away from the influences of the city and the students were kept isolated. Nothing was taught to them about outside society.
Little contact with the external world leaves no scope for the students to learn anything new by themselves. The school was treating the students well and supporting them to learn different subjects, including arts literature, to become the person society wants them to be.
From the school of Hailsham, Kathy went through education and became a young woman. Everything was going well as planned until she and her friends, Ruth and Tommy, decided to leave the place and find out what was outside Hailsham.
They were surprised to see the dirty secret Hailsham was hiding behind the walls.
This gripping mystery novel with an epic love story, sheds light on the harsh reality of human arrogance and makes you think about the different society we live in today.
If you enjoy reading books similar to The Giver, you may also like these books like The Silent Patient.
2. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is possibly one of the most well-known dystopian novels similar to The Giver. Like The Giver, The Hunger Games series has a dystopian society, but each person is given a number that allocates a different class, from the wealthiest districts such as District 1 to the poorest district, District 12. Each district serves The Capitol, the wealthiest of all districts.
To ensure each district knows its place, each year one boy and one girl from each district must compete in The Hunger Games – a battle to the death with one sole victor, who earns a lifetime of food and riches for their family.
This three-novel series follows Katniss Everdeen, a teenager from District 12, from her first battle in the Hunger Games in book one to a much bigger battle in books 2 and 3.
If you haven’t read the books, and only watched the films, make sure you read the books as there is a ton more information in them.
3. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
Set in the far away future, a group of teenagers find themselves landed in a giant, stone maze. Their memories have been wiped, and they have no idea where they are or how they got there.
They only know they have to escape the maze.
But it’s not that simple. The maze is only open for a short period each day, so the group has only a short amount of time to find the maze exit before the door is sealed and they are stuck in the maze forever.
Written through the eyes of Thomas, a boy who finds himself in the maze, we learn that every time they enter the maze, a new danger poses threats.
Will Thomas and his friends escape? Will they learn the truth about the maze and how they came to be there?
If you like sci-fi novels similar to The Giver, then you might also like books like Red Rising.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling novel and a timeless modern classic set in Canada.
Set in a dystopian future where environmental disasters cause declining birthrates, a civil war breaks out. The rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime, enslaves the few remaining fertile women, bound to produce children for one of the Gilead’s commanders – also known as the handmaids.
Offred is one of these handmaids, and this is the story of her life, deprived of seeing her husband and children, living only in memories to get her through each day. This is a dark and suspenseful tale with an eerie twist.
5. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is a critically acclaimed dystopian novel about the conflict between free speech and censorship. It follows the story of Guy Montag who lives in an oppressed society. Books are banned and thinking independently is unheard of. Guy’s job is to burn all the books.
One day, he meets a woman who has a secret stash of literature, and rather than turn them in to be burnt, she would rather be burned along with her books. Shocked, Guy becomes curious.
When Guy starts to defy orders and read instead of burn, he realises what true freedom feels like.
6. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
In Aldous Huxley’s futuristic view, society revolves around efficiency and science. From a young age, children are conditioned rather than taught. Relationships are not allowed, as everyone belongs to everyone, in World State.
The world must live by three rules; zero privacy, zero family, zero monogamy.
When the state takes control of powerful technology, including the control of reproduction through medical intervention, there are new challenges at hand. Even happiness is controlled, by the use of a drug called Soma.
But can a world like this really exist? What happens when you fall in love?
7. 1984 – George Orwell
George Orwell’s portrayal of the future, set in 1984 (it was first published in 1949) shows how society is controlled by one heirarchal being called Big Brother. No one knows who Big Brother is, or what he looks like, but they know how powerful he is.
The ability to choose your own life, or even think your own thoughts, will have you hunted down by the thought police.
Winston is fighting to stay alive and keep his head above water in this repressive society. But can he keep himself together? Big Brother is watching.
8. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
This award-winning Canadian novel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, who after learning of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce.
When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. Alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.
Although first consumed by despair, Brian slowly learns survival skills—how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt, fish and forage for food, make a fire, and even finds the courage to start over when a tornado ravages his campsite.
Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, becoming a new man, changed by his need for survival.
9. Divergent – Veronica Roth
The Divergent follows Beatrice Prior in her dystopian Chicago world where people are categorized by distinct personality traits – Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Amity.
Every year, all sixteen-year-olds must choose a faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.
Beatrice must choose between remaining with her family and being herself, but she cannot have it both ways.
As a result, she renames herself Tris and struggles with her fellow initiates to live out their decision.
They must all work together to survive physical and mental assessments, some of which have disastrous outcomes.
Tris must determine who her true friends are as onset changes them all. As exposed to turmoil and growing dispute that threatens to destabilize her seemingly peaceful world, she realizes that her secret may create a do-or-die situation.
This novel similar to The Giver is also very similar to The Selection, too.
10. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas is a series of six stories set in Hawaii, each narrated by a main character in the next chapter.
Although this style of writing can be confusing to some readers, at the time of its publication, it was a style that was completely unheard of and received high praise from critics across the board.
Each character is a soul that has been reincarnated from the previous character.
The term Cloud Atlas refers to the cloud, an ever-changing, always moving entity compared to the Atlas, a fixed point in the world that will always be.
Series of Books Similar to The Giver
If one book just isn’t enough for you, we hear you! Here’s a list of the best book series similar to The Giver.
11. Uglies – Scott Westerfield
When Tally turns 16, she will undergo an operation to turn her from an ugly to a pretty, where her only role in life is to have fun.
Only her best friend, Shay, isn’t keen on becoming a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns that life amongst the pretty isn’t exactly…well, pretty.
Tally must make a choice. She is on a journey of self-discovery, of eye-opening awakening and self-sacrifice.
12. Gathering Blue – Lois Lowry
Gathering Blue is the next instalment by Lois Lowry and was written as a companion book to The Giver.
It is set in the same time period and has similar themes of self-discovery and growth.
It follows the story of Kira, a girl born with a deformed leg. When her mother dies and leaves her an orphan, she must make her way in a society that usually leaves the disabled and weak behind.
This is Kira’s story of navigating through a world of prejudice and injustice.
13. Swipe – Evan Angler
In the futuristic USA, known as American Union, the right to have citizenship does not come from birth, but from a Pledging process.
Pledges are marked with tattoos, are given certain benefits in society. Those who rebel, who deny having the tattoo, must live as vagrants and rely on the Pledges to provide for them.
When thirteen-year-old Logan Langly is due for his Pledge, he is afraid. His sister never returned from her pledge, and he learns that since the day of her death, someone has been watching him…
14. Blindness – Jose Saramago
When nearly everyone in an unnamed city go blind, a social breakdown follows.
The story follows society as each one turns blind, starting with an ophthalmologist and his patients. His wife, however, is immune to the disease causing blindness.
As more numbers fall to the blindness disease, they are quarantined in an asylum, where living conditions are horrendous. There is a shortage of food, organisation and empathy…
As more and more people turn blind, society crumbles – schools, hospitals, government and social services collapse.
How will they survive?
15. When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
The story follows a sixth-grader, Miranda, who has the chance to win $20,000 in a game show.
As her single mother and her boyfriend try to prepare her for the show, she starts to receive letters from a homeless man whom she calls “the laughing man” due to his tendency to laugh without cause.
The notes instruct her to predict the future, and as the notes become true, she is intrigued.
Meanwhile, her best friend Sal is being bullied by a boy called Marcus. As events unfold, it transpires that all characters are connected in some way unexpected.
With themes around self-improvement, growth and time travel, When You Reach Me is a captivating read with an enticing storyline.
16. Exhalation – Ted Chiang
Exhalation is a collection of short stories written by Ted Chiang.
Each of the nine short stories center around themes of humankind’s place in the universe, virtual reality, time travel, the nature of humans and the battle between free will and determinism.
This novel was named one of the top ten books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review.
17. Body Parts – Jessica Kapp
Tabitha was raised in an Elite foster center where she was sculpted to live in society’s elite class as an athlete.
While Tabitha works to improve her personal health and beat her top scores, she waits to be paired with a family. As she trains, others in the facility receive beautifying treatments in the hopes that it will find them a family.
When she is finally paired with a family, she discovers the horrifying reality that her foster center, is not what it appears at all…
18. Your One And Only – Adrianne Finlay
Jack is the only human amongst a society of clones. Humanity died in a plague nearly a hundred years prior, and the clones were left to carry on the human race.
While Jack longs for acceptance in this society, he learns that one clone, Althea-310, is different.
She becomes intrigued by Jack, and Jack is intrigued by her.
As their connection deepens, their lives become threatened. Can they survive and what will happen if they do the unthinkable, and fall in love?
19. The Fog Diver – Joel Ross
A white mist cloaks the Earth for more than a hundred years, forcing society to live life in the mountains.
Society’s elite live high on the slopes, with the rest of society living beneath them.
As the ruthless leader Lord Kodoc rules from the skies, thirteen-year-old Chess and his friends are forced to scavenge in the Fog-ridden ruins for anything they can sell to survive.
20. The Girl Who Drank The Moon – Kelly Barnhill
Each year, the residents of Protectorate must leave a baby as an offering to the terrifying witch living in the forest.
But the witch, known as Xan, is not terrifying at all, but a kind and gentle being who lives in a swamp with her friends a Swamp Monster, a Tiny Dragon and a Fyrian.
She rescues the babies and delivers them to families on the other side of the forest.
One year, she accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, and she begins to grow magical powers. Xan decides to raise the baby as her own, and so begins their story of love, bravery and self-sacrifice.
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Final Word on Books Similar to The Giver
So there you have it! Our top 20 books similar to The Giver, by either being set in a dystopian future or by having a storyline about societal roles.
Of course, there are so many other books that could have made it to my list but didn’t have the chance. If you think we missed anything, let us know in the comments!
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