You don’t have to search far and wide to find books to read if you love Pokémon. Pokémon was created in 1996 in Japan and has spread internationally. The game has been around my entire life, and my personal interest comes as no surprise given the overwhelming popularity of the franchise. The world of Pokémon is one in which Pokémon, or pocket monsters, can fit in your pocket in things called “poké balls,” and will help you accomplish goals and become your friends. What more could you want? These pocket monsters have endless versatility. In each generation of the game, trainers set out to find new Pokémon with differing skills and abilities detailed in their individualized Pokédex profiles. There’s something for everyone, as newer, less serious players can like the adorable content and more advanced fans can develop deep game knowledge. The possibility for endless creation and levels of investment has given the property longevity and wide appeal.
In my opinion, Pokémon is the ultimate expression of the fantasy animal companion in modern media. At this point, Pikachu has gained the notoriety of some of the mythical creatures from legend. People know phoenixes are reborn in fire and ash and that Pikachu is a yellow creature with lightning powers.
Now, the TV show and movies are legendary, the cards are iconic, and the innumerable merchandise is excellent. (I should know as a fan who loves them all.) I decided to focus on Young Adult and Adult read-alikes, capturing the energy of select Pokémon games. One thing’s for sure, these are the books to read if you love Pokémon.
To Catch Them Is My Real Test: YA Books To Read
A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger
Game: Pokémon Go
Content Warning: Death
Lipan Apache storytelling brings together the lives of a Lipan girl Nina from our world and a cottonmouth shapeshifter Oli from the world of legend as tragedy intertwines their fates. Finding, capturing, and training Pokémon in augmented reality mimics the way Nina believes legends live in the world. Nina believes her great-grandmother’s stories about shapeshifting animal people, even if it will take more than one dictionary to translate them fully. So, when Oli appears with his friends, she is prepared to help him uncover the climate-based threat to both their lives.
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore
Game: Detective Pikachu
Content Warnings: Death, Animal Death, Torture, Imprisonment
Will the mystery of Winterkeep be uncovered before the rot infects the democratic republic? Lovisa, the daughter of two opposing governing parties in Winterkeep, has always been aware of political turmoil and what people will do to hold on to power. But when she discovers something strange going on that involves telepathic sea creatures and foxes, the missing queen Bitterblue and her envoys, and her family, she begins to challenge everything she thought she knew. The fourth book in the Graceling Series has Detective Pikachu–level mystery, where telepathic creatures aid our primary investigators.
Warcross by Marie Lu
Game: Pokémon Battle Revolution
Content Warning: Death
The video game Warcross has become an international way of life and Emika Chen is one of many bounty hunters who hunt down illegal gamblers in the game. It’s not easy to make a living jumping from bounty to bounty. Desperate for extra funds, she hacks into the international Warcross Championships and draws global attention. She finds herself invited to spy for the game’s wealthy young creator, Hideo Tanaka, as one of the players in the tournament. I could not compile this list without including at least one in-book video game to pair with Pokémon Battle Revolution’s colosseum fights.
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Game: Pokémon Sun and Moon
Content Warnings: Death, Imprisonment, Sexism, Indentured Servitude
The Night Zoo houses magical creatures in a dark version of Pokémon Sun and Moon where Koffi is indentured there to pay off familial debt. To save her family from the Zoo master, she wields a power thought lost to the city, forcing her to flee. Meanwhile, Ekon is slated to join the ranks of the elite warriors who protect the city from creatures. When he encounters a fearsome monster and lets the girl who tames it go, he loses his chance. Now Ekon must hunt down the monster if he wants to become a warrior and Koffi needs to sell the creature if she wants to buy her family’s freedom. Working together should keep them alive, but will it be enough?
Master of One by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
Game: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
Content Warnings: Death, Torture
Rags is the city’s best thief, but even the best can get caught. His arresting guards demand he break into a fae dungeon and collect ancient treasure. When the ancient fae treasure awakens, they transform into Pokémon-like creatures who help their chosen masters. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire’s iconic mystical orb that rouses sleeping Pokémon and the crime syndicates that want to use them bear a striking resemblance to the government that wants to control the fae magic for themselves. Ultimately, a thief, a fae prince, a human prince, a rebel, an ex-guard, and a disgraced noble must work with their magical animal companions to outsmart a brutal government.
To Train Them Is My Cause: Adult Book Recommendations
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
Game: Pokémon Ranger
Content Warnings: Racism, Death, Imprisonment, Torture
Gyen is a nonbinary artist who got looped into working for the government occupying their country after a long period of unemployment. Painting mystical sigils on automations was easy until they noticed the corrupt source of the sigil’s power. Gyen steals the ministry’s dragon automation and embarks on a fantastical journey in a world inspired by Korea under Japanese occupation. Likewise, Pokémon Ranger features challenges with Dragon Pokémon as well as an evil group looking to take over using a wicked power source. Gyen and their dragon may help start a revolution, but it will be up to the people to win the fight.
Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau
Game: Pokémon Red and Blue
Content Warnings: Death, Torture, Enslavement
When we meet Leena she is breaking her sacred bond between charmer and beast, selling them on the black market to survive her exile. Much like the first versions of Pokémon, she has to charm wild beasts to ask for their help in battle or daily life and add them to her Pokédex-like bestiary. When someone puts a hit on her, Leena can bargain for her life with her assassin. He gets beasts and she keeps her life. So, the stakes are a bit higher than team rocket but the Pokémon/ beast comparison is impossible to miss.
Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
Game: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
Content Warnings: Imprisonment, Parental Abuse, Death
Much like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, one of the main characters is transformed from a human into a Pokémon, or kehok, at the start of the adventure. Traditionally, kehok riding has brought fame and glory to talented riders and death to the untrained. Tamara is a professional trainer who meets a talented girl who wants to be the very best. Raia knows running from her fiancé is her only chance to survive his cruelty and she is willing to ride a kehok to do so. It helps that the kehok in question is not your average monster.
Capture the Crown by Jennifer Estep
Game: Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Content warning: Torture
In an age long past, the bonds between people and gargoyles were just as rare as the bond between people and Pokémon in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Princess Gemma’s bond with Grimley helps her escape danger in her secret life. Although publicly her vanity is well-known, covertly she performs international espionage aided by her powers as a mind magier. When Gemma discovers her kingdom is in danger, she will do anything to save them. Even if it means trusting her nemesis, Prince Leonidas. She will need all the help she can get from Grimley, Leo, and his animal companion if she wants to save her kingdom and make it out alive.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All, Pokémon!
Pokémon is a wonderful property with epic worldbuilding. Catching all possible book recommendations or game pairings was not possible. Instead, I hope this selection will give you the courage to pull you through. Pokémon and books like it are filled with epic destiny, endless understanding, and noble causes. Here were just a few.