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5 Books like The Giver: The Best in Depressing Dystopic Fiction

‘The Giver’ and other books about a world gone wrong have always been popular. ‘Brave New World’ (1931) and ‘On the Beach’ (1957) were mostly well-received in their day and are still as popular as ‘Maze Runner’.

O Brave New World!

‘Brave New World’ and ‘The Maze Runner’ may not seem to have much in common but they all come from an old genre that has some great classics like ‘The Giver’ as well as great new material.


Books Similar To ‘The Giver’…

‘The Maze Runner’ (James Dashner, 2006)

Image Source: The Film Stage

In the more modern world, ‘Maze Runner‘ is aimed at the teen audience with all the action and danger they expect. All the characters are young, fighting against “the man” who in this case imprisons them without explanation.

The story begins with our hero being dropped (or lifted) into the middle of a maze where they all have to fight for their lives without any clue why. Of course, Thomas rebels against the status quo and ruins their peaceful happy existence in the Glade.

Eventually, after some teen romance, harrowing scenes, and well-written twists they get out of the maze. Then it gets deeper in the sequels. This book was more well-developed then some of the others that were on the best sellers list at the time like ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’. The characters had more depth and the revelations as the series continued were clever, if not original.

I highly recommend reading the book before you watch the movie, a lot was lost in translation there. This certainly has more action than ‘The Giver’, but science is still being used to determine the course of humanity.

Similarity Match: 80%
Both books feature a character that comes in and changes the balance, threatening to change the status quo. While ‘The Giver’ is more thought-provoking and slow to develop, ‘The Maze Runner’ reads like an action movie.

‘On the Beach’ (Nevil Shute, 1957)

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‘On the Beach’ is unlike your usual dystopian novel. It’s an older book published in 1957 and usually is assigned to high school students who roll their eyes at the thought of another boring book. It also does not have a ray of hope at the end.

The story begins in Australia after a nuclear holocaust has occurred on the other side of the world. Details about who started it are sketchy and irrelevant. At this point the characters are choosing how they will end their lives.

No hope, no remedy, no teen savior to fix the world, just a whimper and we’re all dead. The people are all given the option to take a pill which will cause a painless death, but many people don’t use it. In the face of a hopeless situation, they find ways to be hopeful. A woman kindles a romance with a man she just met, a family plants a garden they will never see. It’s sad and hopeful at the same time.

The virtue of this story is how well it is written and how the reader gets to know the people. This is a book about people not a book of action. Like ‘The Giver’, it focuses on relationships.

Similarity Match: 50%
Unlike ‘The Giver’, there is no way out of the situation in Shute’s book, but both are more about people and emotions than about action and danger.

‘Brave New World’ (Aldous Huxley, 1931)

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‘Brave New World’ is another of those old boring classics you were forced to read in high school. Just like ‘On the Beach’, it gets better with age. It was written in 1931, it envisions a future in the far off time of 2540 where the Henry Ford idea of the assembly line has even enlightened human reproduction, turning it into a cloning process.

Just like ‘The Giver’, humans are controlled from birth to a prescribed death. The story focuses on Bernard, who is the kid who gets bullied by his fellow Alpha because he’s too short. He meets John, who is a “savage” raised outside of the structured sanitized world. Bernard becomes his keeper as people come to see the savage like we go see lions at the zoo.

If that doesn’t excite young minds, you can rebel against the powers that be just by reading this book. It has been banned multiple times and was listed as one of the most banned books on the 2010 by the American Library Association.

Similarity Match: 50%
Many of the things we call cliché first appeared in Huxley’s work. Both books frequently make it to the challenged or banned lists because of “inappropriate themes” ‘Brave New World’ has more action however.


If You Like ‘The Giver’, You Will Like…

All dystopian fiction has themes, sometimes there is a way out and sometimes it just seems like all that rebellion went nowhere.

‘1984’ (George Orwell, 1949)

Image Source: NY Daily News

This is a good classic book everyone should read just to get the cultural references, like 2 and 2 is 5, untruth and thoughtcrime. The movie with John Hurt is worth watching too.


One man trying to change a world gone bad like the old man in ‘The Giver’, but in the end does he make a difference?

‘Handmaid’s Tale’ (Margaret Atwood, 1985)

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Another well-written book, this always makes it on the list of feminist literature because of its focus on reproductive rights. Atwood is always heavy on the political commentary but writes a great sci-fi book.


It always seems like the government always goes right for the eugenics idea when they want to control the world and oppress ideas.


Ready to Change the World?

If you see shades of ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘The Giver’ in the world as you watch the news, take heart. As long as there is an oppressor, there is always a hero. At least in fiction anyway.

Do you enjoy reading some of the classic dystopic works? Or do they seem dated and out of touch? Books seem to be more action these days, there are not so many that take time to develop an idea slowly.

Do you know any other book like ‘The Giver’?

Let me know in the comments below.

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