Are you experiencing Stranger Things withdrawal after finishing all of the thrilling Season 4 episodes earlier this month?!
If so, you are definitely not alone. The Netflix show, set in Hawkins, Indiana, stars Millie Bobbie Brown as Eleven, a girl with telekinetic and telepathic powers, who escapes a top-secret government lab. The show has such a huge following because it masterfully mixes so many genres:
- Horror — monsters, spine-tingling fear and jump-scares, not to mention the increasing levels of gore!
- Science Fiction — Eleven’s mysterious psionic powers.
- Fantasy — the frightening parallel world of the Upside Down.
- Romance — Eleven and Mike, Max and Lucas, Dustin and Susie, ‘Jopper’ i.e., Joyce and Hopper, and the Jonathan-Nancy-Steve love triangle. Are you Team Jonathan or Team Steve?!
- Mystery — missing people, dead bodies, covert government facilities, Soviet spies; there are so many secrets and mysteries in Hawkins.
Set in the 1980s, the details and nostalgia of that era are also a big part of its mass appeal. However, it is arguably the characters, particularly the kids, who truly set this pop culture sensation apart from other TV shows: they are well-developed, quirky, funny and real. The dialogue is snappy and the friendships between them is deep and heart-warming. Despite all the monsters and the mysteries, Stranger Things is really a coming-of-age story for all its young characters.
Stranger Things has something for almost everyone. So these books might help you fill the void until Season 5 comes out sometime in 2024.
Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero, ©2017 – Labelled a horror-comedy, Meddling Kids is about a group of former child detectives who reunite in their small hometown in 1990 to reexamine their last case, the mystery of the Sleepy Lake monster. The nostalgic frame, the erratic pacing typical of horrors, as well as the complexity, humour and surprising poignancy of the characters will appeal to many Stranger Things fans.
The Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey, ©2014 – In the near future after a deadly fungus turned most humans into zombie-like creatures called the ‘hungries’, a gifted 10-year old girl named Melanie and other children are kept in a research facility and subjected to experiments to see if they hold the cure. The similarities between Melanie and Eleven of Stranger Things will be evident to fans, who will also appreciate the complex characters and the overall dark, ominous tone of this horror thriller. The book was also made into a movie by the same name in 2016.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club, by Craig Davidson, ©2018 – This Canadian novel follows a group of kids who form a club one summer to investigate supposedly haunted local landmarks of 1980s Niagara Falls. Led by 12 year-old Jake and his eccentric Uncle Calvin, the gang of misfits ultimately uncover a much larger mystery about monsters, real and imagined. Stranger Things fans will love the retro time frame and the overall spooky atmosphere of the book, as well as the bittersweet coming-of-age storyline.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix, ©2018 – The cover of this book looks just like a beat-up VHS tape you would find on Blockbuster shelves 30 years ago, so you just know the novel is going to be rife with 80s references, like Stranger Things. Paying homage to the low-budget, campy horror and slasher films of the 80s, the storyline is filled with gore and dark humour, but it’s the friendship between Gretchen and Abby that may be most appealing to Stranger Things fans.
It, by Stephen King, ©1986 – Stranger Things creators, the Duffer brothers, identify Stephen King as an influence in their work. Therefore, almost anything written by King might appeal to fans, including his 1974 iconic classic, Carrie or 1980 novel Firestarter. However, the storyline of his horror novel, It, set in a small town like Hawkins, may feel most familiar: a monster is preying on the town’s youth, and a group of friends must stick together and face supernatural forces to save the town.
Unspeakable Things, by Jess Lourey, ©2020 – Not only is the title similar to Stranger Things, the storyline of this mystery is too: in a seemingly wholesome small Minnesota town in the 80s, something sinister is happening to the youth. One at a time, they go missing, but when they return, they are withdrawn and violent. Perhaps adding to the tense, suspenseful tone of this novel is the knowledge that Lourey based it on real-life events from her Minnesota childhood.
Where The Forest Meets The Stars, by Glendy Vanderah, ©2019 – For those who love both the paranormal storyline and the characterization of the Stranger Things cast, this heartfelt and imaginative debut novel from Vanderah will be a hit. A mysterious and unusual child who needs help brings together two strangers, Joanna and Gabriel, who are struggling with their own personal issues.
If you really can’t get enough of the Stranger Things characters, there are now 5 official Stranger Things novels that are part of the canon. Best of all, since they are all stand-alone novels, you can read them in any order!
Suspicious Minds, by Gwenda Bond, ©2019 – The prequel to the Stranger Things show, this novel tells the story of Eleven’s mother, Terry Ives.
Darkness On The Edge of Town, by Adam Christopher, ©2019 – Written as a letter from Chief Jim Hopper to Eleven, this book explores his tragic past before he moved to Hawkins.
Runaway Max, by Brenna Yovanoff, ©2019 – This book is all about Max’s background story, from her time in California to her first days in Hopkins, ending with that memorable school dance at the end of season 2.
Rebel Robin, by A.R. Capetta, ©2021 – Told in first-person narrative from Robin’s perspective, this novel is about Robin’s journey to understanding and accepting herself, with lots of ‘easter eggs’ from the first season of Stranger Things. Netflix has even released a Rebel Robin podcast entitled Surviving Hawkins:
Lucas On The Line, by Suyi Davies, ©2022 – Coming July 26, this book picks up where season 3 leaves off, and follows Lucas’s story as the gang starts high school, Lucas connects with another Black teen in Hawkins and he joins the basketball team.
So until 2024 my fellow Stranger Things fans, happy reading!