If You Like Watching The Last of Us, Try These Books
Like a large number of people, my family and I have been watching The Last of Us, a dystopian series based on a popular video game (which I have not played). When I watch shows (or movies), I often find myself thinking about the ways that we can connect books to them. So below is a cover gallery of YA titles that teens might like if they are fans of the show.
Because The Last of Us is more than one thing, I have broken it down into appeal factors.
If You Like the Post-Apocalyptical/Dystopian Worlds Storyline
There are no shortage of post-apocalyptical/dystopian YA books, especially if you start looking back in the early 2000s. You can check out a book list put together by a teen reader here back in 2012, many of these titles still hold up. I love The Immortal Rules, a unique twist of vampires and trying to stay human and just a really disturbing look at the end of the world. Epic Reads also has a great look at the end of the world in YA lit here.
And coming in May of 2023
Publisher’s Book Description:
Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Hazel Wood are cordially invited to spend one fateful night surviving an elite private school’s epic masquerade ball in Jen Wilde’s debut thriller, This Is the Way the World Ends.
As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy in New York City, Waverly is used to masking to fit in—in more ways than one. While her classmates are the children of the one percent, Waverly is getting by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the school’s charming and enigmatic dean. So when her tutoring student and resident “it girl” asks Waverly to attend the school’s annual fundraising Masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance—especially once she finds out that Ash, the dean’s daughter and her secret ex-girlfriend, will be there.
The Masquerade is everything Waverly dreamed of, complete with extravagant gowns, wealthy parents writing checks, and flowing champagne. Most importantly, there’s Ash. All Waverly wants to do is shed her mask and be with her, but the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school’s top donors—and witnesses a brutal murder. This gala is harboring far more malevolent plots than just opening parents’ pocketbooks. Before she can escape or contact the authorities, a mysterious global blackout puts the entire party on lockdown. Waverly’s fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, and she, Ash, and her friends must navigate through a dizzying maze of freight elevators, secret passageways, and back rooms if they’re going to survive the night.
And even if they manage to escape the Masquerade, with technology wiped out all over the planet, what kind of world will they find waiting for them beyond the doors?
Karen’s Thoughts: This may look like a YA book about prom, but it’s really a book about what happens when someone realizes the world is about to end and makes some very sick and twisted plans to create a new world, where they are in charge of course. Very unexpected and entertaining read. This is like what would happen if someone knew the fungal infection was about to break out in The Last of Us and were trying to save some people and create a new world order. A bulk of the book takes place over the course of 24 hours as a group of teens try and survive the deadliest party ever, but you get some glimpses into what their vision of a new world order might like look and it’s eerie. So if you are a reader who is interested in visions of what humans can do in the face of adverse situations and how they can set up the most horrific vision of the future, you will probably find this one fascinating.
If You Like Zombies
I know that they are not technically zombies in The Last of Us, but they are zombie adjacent and I do love a good zombie novel. If you are looking for the emotional resonance that you find in The Last of Us, This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers is a good place to start. Eat Your Heart Out is a unique and fun variation on the zombie novel, as it features kids at camp and corporate malfeasance. The Undead Truth of Us and Burn Down, Rise Up are also unique variations on the zombie novel that came out last year. Like This is Not a Test, The Undead Truth of us taps into emotion very well. Burn Down, Rise Up is a unique take on both local games that go very, very wrong and survival. If you really want to dive into YA zombie novels, Goodreads has a list of over 305 zombie books for your to find your perfect match.
If You Like Wilderness Survival
One of the things that we see a lot of in The Last of Us is Joel and Ellie trekking through a barren landscape and just trying to survive, not zombies or other people, but the elements. So if wilderness survival is something you are interested in, try these books. Be Not Far from Me is my favorite wilderness survival book and it features a teen trying to survive the Smoky Mountains. Playing with Fire is about trying to literally escape during a wildfire. After Shocks and No Accident both feature teens trying to survive extreme events, an earthquake and a plane crash.
The Ashfall Series by Mike Mullin
The Last of Us spans literal decades where you see a new world order emerging and how it’s not just the infected you have to fear, but your fellow humans. The Ashfall series begins with an ecological disaster, in this case a volcanic eruption that coats the United States in ashes. And it features a lot of those elements that you see in The Last of Us in terms of how do humans respond, how do they survive, and how does the world re-organize itself.
The Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Publisher’s Book Description:
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Karen’s Thoughts: This is a great book about a group of girls on an island who are infected by . . . something. In terms of storyline, it’s a pretty good read for those who are fascinated by the fungal infection creatures in The Last of Us.
Those are just some of my thoughts regarding YA lit that teen readers who like the show may enjoy. What’s on your list?
Filed under: Reader's Advisory
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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