Perhaps one of the best things to come out of Netflix’s lineup of original shows is Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers’ creation instantly became a cult classic since its release in July 2016 and now, die-hard Stranger Things fans anxiously await the release of season two in 2017. To stave off your Stranger Things withdrawals until then, here is a list of books you should read to satisfy your creepy sci-fi cravings.
It by Stephen King
Refer to any Stranger Things reading list and it will tell you to pick up a copy of It. Stephen King’s classic horror novel-turned-movie is incredibly similar to the plot of Stranger Things. “The Losers Club,” a group of adolescent boys and one girl, work together to fight off an evil force that is terrorizing their small hometown in Maine.
The evil force is seen in the form of a creepy clown that mysteriously lurks around the town waiting to attack its prey, similar to the “demogorgon” monster that kidnaps Will and Barb and takes them to the Upside Down.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
For those who want a Stanger Things-esque plot with a girl power twist, you should get a copy of Paper Girls. The graphic novel series was created by Brian K. Vaughan is quickly picking up traction, similar to the way that Stranger Things did when it first came out.
The story focuses on a group of 12-year-old BMX riding, hockey stick wielding paper girls who discover an alien invasion in their suburban town. Set in 1988, this graphic novel captures the nostalgic feel that Stranger Things has and also features similar characteristics from mysterious disappearances to menacing men in masks.
Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates
If Paper Girls was exactly what you were looking for and now you want more, you might want to pick up a copy of Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates. Set in the 1950s in upstate New York, Foxfire is about a group of high school girls who form a gang whose mission is vengeance.
While the Stranger Things demons are mysterious and sometimes supernatural, the demons in Foxfire consist of rapists and molesters that the Foxfire group must defeat. According to popsugar.com, “Extortion, physical violence, car chases, and kidnappings ensue, leading to the disappearance of one of Foxfire’s own.”
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The 1962 novel has all the elements of the supernatural and horror that Stranger Things has. Ray Bradbury’s classic novel is about two 13-year-old boys who investigate a twilight carnival that sets up shop in their small midwestern town. Similar to the demogorgon that drags its prey to the Upside Down, Something Wicked This Way Comes features sinister ringleaders that prey on the town’s children to become slaves to their carnival.
If you’ve read the book, you might also want to check out the Disney movie version that came out in 1983. Don’t let the fact that it was produced by Disney deter you from watching the film because they enlisted Bradbury himself as a screenwriter, so rest assured that the movie has done the book justice.
The Boys of Summer by Richard Cox
Richard Cox’s The Boys of Summer is set in 1983 and begins with 13-year-old Todd Willis who fell into a coma after escaping a tornado that ravaged his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas. He wakes up four years later to find that the town is the same, but something is off. He befriends four other boys with whom he spends one revelatory summer as they uncover the darkness that has befallen their hometown. They reconvene over a decade later when the darkness returns.
The plot of this novel has Stranger Things written all over it, considering it’s about a group of adolescent boys who are investigating the weird vibes and occurrences that have taken over their town.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
If the 1980s nostalgia of Stranger Things is something that had you hooked to the show, then you might enjoy Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. While Ready Player One and Stranger Things have nothing in common in terms of plot, their love of ’80s culture is prevalent throughout.
The novel is about a virtual universe called OASIS, whose recently deceased creator left behind an Easter Egg that will grant his fortune and complete control of OASIS unto whoever finds it. The novel is currently being made into a movie by Stephen Spielberg, so by the time you read this book and finish season two of Stranger Things, Spielberg’s film adaptation of Ready Player One will be out in 2018.
The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
When 10-year-old Jack Peter nearly drowns in the ocean, he is too afraid of the outdoors. Confined to his home, he begins to draw the monsters that take over his imagination. However, when he starts to hear stories about strange things that are happening around his town, it seems that young Jack is the only one who knows what’s going on and how to fight it.
The Boy Who Drew Monsters is obviously reminiscent of Eleven, who went through a traumatic experience and knows about the demogorgon, but lets her fear of returning to where she came from inhibit her from helping her friends defeat it. Keith Donohue also authored The New York Times bestseller, The Stolen Child.
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
If you’re a fan of Stranger Things and post-apocalyptic zombie invasions, then The Girl With All The Gifts should be on your reading list. Imagine a world divided into three groups of people: hungries, junkers, and the uninfected. The hungries are like zombies in that they are mindless cannibals, but if a hungrie hasn’t tasted human flesh, they still retain their mental capabilities.
The Girl With All The Gifts is about 10-year-old Melanie, a hungrie with a genius IQ who teams up with an uninfected psychologist to discover a cure for the virus that has ravaged humanity. M.R. Carey’s novel is sure to be a hit with anyone who enjoys young heroines like Eleven.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Set in 1988, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is about a group of sophomore girls, Abby and Gretchen, who go skinny dipping in a lake, but after an unfortunate incident, Gretchen of the girls begins to act strangely. Abby comes to the conclusion that Gretchen is possessed and enlists a group of friends to save her friend.
While the book is set in the ’80s like Stranger Things, it is also similar in the sense that it follows a group of friends who will do anything to save their friend, uncovering dark truths along the way. You can also draw parallels between the series and this book in the demonic elements that seem to take over their characters.
Firestarter by Stephen King
It should come as no surprise that another Stephen King novel has made its way onto this list. After all, one might say he is the “King” of stories that explore the supernatural, horror, suspenseful, and fantastical elements of science fiction.
All jokes aside, Firestarter is perhaps one of the books on this list that is most similar to Stranger Things. Like Eleven, Firestarter is about a young girl and her father who escape a sinister government agency, called The Shop, and are on the run to avoid recapture. The Shop experimented on the girl and her father, who are a pyrokinetic and a telekinetic, respectively.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
If mystery and stories told in flashback are more your cup of tea, then Donna Tartt’s The Secret History will probably a book that you will enjoy. The story follows a man named Richard, who reflects on his college years with a close-knit group of friends, one of which ends up murdered. The story focuses on Richard recalling the events that lead to the murder and why it happened.
The 1992 novel will certainly please anyone who is a fan of mystery novels and slowly uncovering unknown truths, much like the mystery of Eleven’s past and why she refuses to go back.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
In line with Stranger Things’s elements of strange children in a ’80s setting, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In is about 12-year-old Oskar who is growing up in 1980s Stockholm. The misfit Oskar is constantly bullied by his peers, but finally, makes a friend when a boy named Eli moves in next door. But Eli is no ordinary child, he is in fact, a centuries-old vampire who dresses in girls’ clothing and is perceived by everyone else as a young girl.
According to popsugar.com, “While the novel focuses on their friendship, it also incorporates loaded themes such as alcoholism, pedophilia, murder, and suicide.”
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
If Stranger Things had you hooked because it revolves around a small town with a dark secret, then you might be interested in reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. After most of her family dies from a mysterious dinner poisoning, Merricat Blackwood is forced to take care of her sister and dying uncle in their sagging estate.
Nobody talks about the poisoning and after the incident, the townsfolk have for some reason turned on the Blackwoods, making them an object of hatred and ridicule. But the big looming question here is why? Pick up this novel and find out.
Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water recounts the tale of a local aspiring Hollywood starlet who goes missing. After her friends find her body at the bottom of the Sabine River, they refuse to let the adults toss the body back. They decide to take their friend’s cremated remains to Hollywood, setting out on an adventure down the river as they try to avoid the “evil Skunk” that haunts the river’s swamps.
Like Stranger Things, mystery and evil forces are afoot in Edge of Dark Water, which is a Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Book for Young Adults as determined by the American Library Association.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
According to Hello Giggles, “The Age of Miracles is 11-year-old Julia’s story of growing up in a world that’s literally falling apart: Earth has stopped rotating correctly. As the days and nights are growing longer and longer, gravity is affected and the birds, the tides, human behavior and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray.” Julia must deal with this phenomenon in conjunction to her failing relationships with her friends and family.
The Age of Miracles has an obvious element of science fiction and is similar to Stranger Things in that it explores the world through the eyes of a young girl who is forced to grow up on her own terms.
Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life is about 12-year-old Cory, who witnesses a terrible incident with his father. According to Barnes & Noble, “That terrible incident marks the start to what turns out to be a quite literally magical summer for Cory—magic both wonderful and terrible.”
With dark magical elements, Boy’s Life is reminiscent of the boys in Stranger Things who must learn to face bullies and also come to terms with numerous strange occurrences and supernatural forces that are working against them in their small town. The 1991 novel won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1992 and Robert McCammon is a New York Times bestselling author.
Jesus Saves by Darcey Steinke
Darcey Steinke’s Southern gothic novel Jesus Saves follows Ginger, a rebellious teen daughter of the town minister, who becomes fixated on the abduction of another girl, Sandy Patrick. The novel follows the real-life demons of humankind and according to goodreads.com, “explores the darkest limits of human degradation.”
For Stranger Things fans who were into the mystery of missing persons, relentless searching, and fighting evil, Jesus Saves takes these elements and puts them in a real-life setting. The novel came out in 1997 and The New York Times has praised Jesus Saves as a “consistently and disturbingly beautiful piece of writing.”
The Lost Estate by Alain-Fournier
French author Alain-Fournier’s only novel is The Lost Estate, which was originally published in 1913 as Le Grand Meaulnes. The story is about two teens who struggle between childhood and adulthood and lost love. How is this related to Stranger Things you might ask?
Electricliterature.com reveals that The Lost Estate has, “a disappeared youth, a mysterious newcomer, and the onset of the heart’s desire before it can even be known as such.” The folks at Electric Literature also say that The Lost Estate, “is a must for anyone trying to come to terms with nostalgia despite its famous warning that ‘It is better to forget everything.'”
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons’s horror novel, Summer of Night, follows the summer adventures of a group of teen boys, whose fun summer ends when an insidious force begins to take over and a series of horrifying events ensues throughout the town. The boys work together to defeat the evil force and end its reign of terror.
Many people compare this novel to Stephen King’s It, minus its lackluster ending. The novel has obvious parallels with Stranger Things in that it has a group of youngsters who are trying to defeat the “evil forces” that are causing strange events to occur in their town.
In the Woods by Tana French
Tana French is an American crime writer whose first novel was In the Woods, for which she won numerous awards for “Best First Novel.” The novel follows two Irish detectives who investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl.
The plot thickens when readers learn that one of the officers was found tied to a tree in the woods near an ancient altar as a young boy. When he was discovered, he remembers nothing of how he got in that situation or the whereabouts of his two friends, who’ve gone missing. Years later, the officer still recalls nothing but must face the events again when the murdered girl is found in the same forest he was found in.