In a post-apocalyptic world where survival is key, The Last of Us has captivated audiences with its gripping storytelling, immersive world-building, and memorable characters. Whether you're a fan of the show or the video game, there's no denying the allure of this dark and gritty story. If you're looking to dive deeper into the world of The Last of Us, then these young adult read-alikes might be just what you need. While not all of these books have zombies, they maintain and capture elements of The Last of Us franchise, such as family bonds, societal deterioration, and dystopian worlds that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Limitless Sky by Christina Kilbourne
Rook and Gage live worlds apart — but somehow they must find a way to help one another survive.
Trapped in a life she didn’t choose, Rook struggles to find meaning in her appointed role as an apprentice Keeper of ArHK. Even though her mam soothes her with legends of the Outside and her da assures her there are many interesting facts to discover in the Archives, Rook sees only endless years of tracking useless information. Then one day Rook discovers historic footage of the Chosen Ones arriving in ArHK, and she begins to realize her mam’s legends are more than bedtime stories. That’s when Rook begins her perilous and heartbreaking search for the limitless sky.
Gage is also trapped. Living on the frontier line with his family, his is a life of endless moving and constant danger. As he works with the other Scouts, Gage searches for the Ship of Knowledge to help his society regain the wonders of the long distant past, when machines transported people across the land, illnesses could be cured, and human structures rose high into the sky.
Will Rook and Gage escape the traps and perils that await them in order to save each other’s worlds? If they don’t, it could very well be the end of humanity.
All That's Left in the World by Erik J. Brown
When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie's house, he's injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world's population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it's to be scared of what other desperate people will do...so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?
After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn't adding up about Andrew's story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He's starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.
The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they'll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that's left in their world is their undeniable pull toward each other.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp
The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.
Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day...they don't show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There's a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they're stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.
As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.
Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson
Paige Miller is determined to take her basketball team to the state championship, maybe even beyond. But as March Madness heats up, Paige falls deathly ill. Days later, she wakes up attached to an IV and learns that the whole world has perished. Everyone she loves, and all of her dreams for the future—they’re gone.
But Paige is a warrior, so she pushes through her fear and her grief. And as she gets through each day—scrounging for food, for shelter, for safety—Paige encounters a few more young survivors. Together, they might stand a chance. But as they struggle to endure their new reality, they learn that the apocalypse did not happen by accident. And that there are worse things than being alone.
The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.