With the final movie having come out a few months ago, The Hunger Games are officially over. Like most readers, I tore through the trilogy in what felt like no time...more than once even! While Katniss Everdeen inspired her really obvious knockoffs (Divergent, anyone?), nothing has quite lived up to Collins' trilogy. And while they're not all quite the same, obviously, here are some of my favorite YA series led by bad-ass female characters:
The Old Kingdom trilogy: For me, these books are the most similar to Collins' and the most likely to be enjoyed by the Hunger Games crowd. Anyone who loved tough, strong Katniss should love equally tough and strong Sabriel, whose beloved father has disappeared into the realm of Death while fighting a powerful necromancer. She has no choice but to rely on the skills he taught her to find him and save her home from evil. These books are fantasy rather than dystopia, but they've got a similar girl-on-a-quest narrative, and a similar approach to the obligatory "love interest" plot point (in that it's a relatively minor plot point...and bonus for no artificial love triangle!). For me, the second volume of this was the weakest (I didn't like Lirael as a character as much as I liked Sabriel), but the first and third were great. There's actually a fourth one that's come out, and I can't wait to get my hands on it and read it because Garth Nix is amazing.
The Immortals quartet: Anything by Tamora Pierce is a solid choice for a young feminist (she's also got the Young Lioness quartet that's very popular and well-regarded, but that one didn't do nearly as much for me when I read it), but this series is my favorite. Daine Sarassri is an orphaned young woman living in a fantasy kingdom called Tortall who discovers that she has a kind of magic, not of the traditional spells-and-charms kind, but a rarer kind of Wild Magic that allows her to commune with animals. Her gift has always set her apart from people, so she's more comfortable with four-footed than two-footed company. Daine, like Katniss, is proud and private and awkward and uses her strength to protect the ones she loves, and her adventures make for compulsive, entertaining reading.
His Dark Materials trilogy: This one is stretching it farther from The Hunger Games base, but it does feature a headstrong, scrappy girl who fights back against the system. The plot is complicated and gets into some strong theological questions like the nature of sin, so the reading is a little bit slower paced, but don't worry, it's not drudgery by a long shot. Lyra Belacqua is an unforgettable heroine and readers who gobbled up Katniss' fight against the Capitol should enjoy Lyra's push back against authority in her world, too.
A Wrinkle In Time Quintet: If you've read them, you might be wondering how I'd compare them to The Hunger Games, which is fair. But I think you can trace a line from smart, stubborn Meg Murray to smart, stubborn Katniss Everdeen without too much trouble. Neither Madeline L'Engle nor Susan Collins is afraid to let their heroine be prickly and sometimes unlikable. Both Meg and Katniss fiercely love and work to protect their younger sibling at great risk to themselves. Unlike The Hunger Games, we actually get to see later stories from the perspectives of the younger siblings in question, and the part of the story that involve an older Meg make me wish we'd gotten a better look at older Katniss.