Book Gallery: YA for Fans of Squid Game
I’m not going to lie, I only made it through 1 episode of Squid Game because the violence was too much for me personally. But Riley has watched it and talks to me about it – a lot. And she is just one of the many, many teens I know that are watching this show. So I thought I would put together for us a book gallery that highlights Teen/Young Adult fiction about deadly games, contests, etc. that teens who like the show may like to read. The titles here focus on teens being in peril and trying to survive, much like one of the elements of Squid Game. It is important to note, however, the survival aspect is not the overall theme of Squid Game, and it’s important that we take a moment to talk about that.
Part of the underlying commentary of Squid Game is about the brutality and exploitation of trying to survive capitalism. The contestants in Squid Game are there because they are in some way not surviving in a world that thrives on capitalism, sometimes because of decisions of their own and sometimes because of those around them. It also has a lot to do more specifically with Korean culture, which I want to acknowledge although I do not have a right to talk about those cultural contexts of Squid Game. In the world of YA, it seems thematically similar to a lot of early 2000s Dystopian, especially The Hunger Games, which of course was thematically and plot wise similar to earlier predecessors like Battle Royale. These are important literary and media conversations that have been happening that talk about the brutality of capitalism, exploitation, and more. If you have not watched the series, and even if you have, I recommend taking a deep dive into analysis of this series and why it is so widely popular, especially in this current moment. I have been reading a lot about it and it’s informative and fascinating.
So before we dive into the book gallery, I want to use this opportunity to talk with you about an old YA favorite of mine: HIT by Delilah Dawson. This title specifically has very good corollaries to the economic exploitation and brutality discussed in Squid Game.
In Hit, people who have debt must become assassins for the bank owning the debt in order to pay off – or, em, kill off – their debt. So here we meet Patsy, who becomes a teenage assassin to keep her mother alive because her mom can’t do it herself. So she’s given a list of 10 people she has to kill to pay off her debt and it turns out, they aren’t all strangers to her. It’s complicated. And it’s a wild ride that takes on capitalism, debt and more. So you can see how it’s a great companion read for Squid Game fans. There’s also a second book called Strike. I liked the series and think it’s a great read -a-like for Squid Game fans. It, too, is a searing commentary on capitalism, economic exploitation, and how hard it is to get out of debt once you get into it, and how very few people can avoid getting into it to survive this life.
There are a few other books that really tackle economic injustice and the brutality of capitalism well that may be of interest to Squid Game fans and they include Hungry by H. A. Swain and, of course, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Readers may also want to check out S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett.
Although the following books don’t all focus on the capitalism and debt aspect of Squid Game, they definitely have the I hope you survive this event, day, or night aspect. Some of the titles, like Panic by Lauren Oliver, do tap into economic anxieties which fuel the deadly small town competition. For some of the other titles on the lists its tradition, secrets or revenge that put their lives in peril. If you have readers who are looking for books that have that people in peril aspect, these reads might satisfy their reading interests.
Book covers pictured include: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher, Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz, Shade’s Children by Garth Nix, Surviving Antartica by Andrea White, Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott, Titans by Victoria Scott, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Panic by Lauren Oliver, #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, the Gone series by Michael Grant, Caraval by Stephanie Garber and Survive the Night by Danielle Vega
You may also find some other books of interest in these lists, which again don’t always touch on some of the social themes but still have the people in peril aspect.
YA Slasher Fiction: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ya-slasher
YA Survival Stories: https://www.readbrightly.com/young-adult-survival-stories/
I am sure that there are a lot of other great titles that could be added to this list. And for those of us that have teens asking for books to read similar to Squid Game, there are several directions you can go. So if you have some recommendations to add, please leave a comment and tell us what you recommend and why.
More information about HIT by Delilah S. Dawson
NO ONE READS THE FINE PRINT.
The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.
Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?
Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy’s list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.
Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy’s past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren’t strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy’s list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.
Delilah S. Dawson offers an absorbing, frightening glimpse at a reality just steps away from ours—a taut, suspenseful thriller that absolutely mesmerizes from start to finish.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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