Emily Henry’s When the Sky Fell on Splendor takes readers to Splendor, Ohio and introduces readers to The Ordinary, a group of six teens who report on local legends for their web series. But an investigation of a potential UFO crash site leaves the friends with mysterious abilities and draws the attention of the FBI. If the synopsis reminds you of a certain Netflix series set in Hawkins, Indiana, you aren’t alone. To celebrate her book’s release, Henry put together a list of book recommendations for her favorite Stranger Things characters.
Will Byers: The Echo Room by Parker Peevyhouse
It’s bad enough to be trapped alone in the Upside Down, but for Rett Ward, waking up in an eerie metal bunker is made all the worse by the presence of a suspicious stranger, Bryn. Rett just wants a teammate in his quest to escape the bunker, but before he and Bryn can make any progress, a bloodstain and a slew of fragmented memories breed mistrust between them. As the two of them try to piece together how they got there—and find a way out—a ruthlessly rebooting time loop throws their story into a creepy, claustrophobic spiral toward both the truth and an escape. But as the tagline for Peevyhouse’s sci-fi thriller reminds us, sometimes “the only thing worse than being locked in is facing what you locked out.”
Every dungeon master, gamer, and puzzle aficionado in your life needs to read Marie Lu’s Warcross. Or maybe just everyone in your life. This thrill ride of a near-future sci-fi novel follows Emika Chen, a teen hacker who makes her money tracking down people illegally betting on the outcome of a global gaming sensation called Warcross. After an accident thrusts Emika right into the game’s action (and instant viral fame), she receives a new job offer from the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka: She’s invited to join the game as Hideo’s personal spy and get to the bottom of a mysterious security threat. Perfectly paced and full of fun twists, Warcross is a breakneck delight of a book.
Barb Holland: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
As we all know, Barb deserved better (for example, a recurring role on Riverdale). And if she’d had a friend like Undead Girl Gang’s Mila Flores, she might’ve gotten it. With little else to do in her small town, Mila and her bestie Riley fill their time with some good old-fashioned witchcraft. But then Riley dies, along with two of their school’s bullies, and Mila knows in her gut that the commonly accepted explanation—a suicide pact—doesn’t ring true. So she does what pretty much any best friend who also happens to be a witch would: She finds a spell and brings the dead girls back to life to find out what happened. Undead Girl Gang is hilarious, smart, and heartwarming all at once.
Steve Harrington: Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Aditi Khorana’s gorgeous, grounded sci-fi novel may not have Steve Harrington’s wry smile or floppy hair, but main character Tara Krishnan is certainly having a Steve Harrington-sized identity crisis. When Tara’s Earth (assumedly our own) receives a message from a mirror planet proving the existence of an alternate reality, shy, studious Tara begins to question what decisions her alternate self might be making. And then tries on parallel-universe-Tara’s life for size. Mirror in the Sky is an emotionally complex, slow-burning sci-fi novel that’s more about people than anything else.
Eleven: MEM by Bethany C. Morrow
Bethany C. Morrow’s exquisite novel Mem isn’t actually young adult, but its coming-of-age themes and its exquisite execution make it an essential mention in this list. Elsie, MEM’s main character, might not have telekinetic powers or know how to travel between our universe and its shadow self, but she knows as well as Eleven what it’s like to live as someone else’s experiment. Elsie is a Mem: a clone-like humanoid created by scientists working to extract traumatic memories from those who can afford their services. While most Mems live short lives wherein they are unaware of their surroundings—experiencing the one memory they represent over and over again until expiration—Elsie is different. She forms new memories, has conversations, changes, grows, and forms bonds with the people around her. And no one can figure out why. Set in an alternate turn-of-the-century Quebec, MEM is a not-to-be-missed, epiphany of a book.
Emily Henry is the author of The Love That Split the World and A Million Junes. She is a full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. She tweets @EmilyHenryWrite.