When the Sky Fell on Splendor is equal parts Stranger Things and not Stranger Things


Emily Henry’s When the Sky Fell on Splendor name-checks Stranger Things in its promotional material, and the comparison is apt in some ways, but only some.

Not every press release this writer gets has the audacity to name a big, well-known property as one of its comparable titles, but When the Sky Fell on Splendor does so in the second sentence. Emily Henry’s novel definitely owes some things to Stranger Things and to that show’s influences. At the same time, though, dropping that expectation on readers ahead of diving into the title invites comparisons.

Let’s talk about two ways that the book really does earn that credit, and one way it’s not like the show at all.

Like Stranger Things: Tight-knit friends

In Stranger Things, it’s the Party. In When the Sky Fell, it’s The Ordinary. In fact, the two groups have the same gender balance: two girls and four boys. But where Stranger Things tells the story of the Party mostly from the boys’ perspectives, Franny gets to narrate the entirety of the story.

Beyond that, though, When the Sky Fell takes the time to illustrate everyone’s at-home lives, however briefly, and shows how many sub-relationships are there in the larger group. For example, Remy and Levi are cousins; Arthur and Franny are brother and sister. It helps that everyone in The Ordinary is older, closer to Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve’s age.

Unlike Stranger Things: The tragedy

Hawkins, Indiana, and Splendor, Ohio, sound awfully similar. However, Hawkins’ tragedies are smaller and more personal, like the loss of Jim Hopper’s family. But as the same press release notes, and what stands out in the story of When the Sky Fell, is that the event of said sky falling isn’t the first weird thing to happen to Splendor.

It’s the second. This is something that Franny and her friends have grown up under. She’s 17 at the time of the book, and was close to 12 when she as good as lost her elder brother. Henry lets Franny feel so much pain, from bottling up her issues to finally letting them out. This isn’t something that Splendor shook off.

Like Stranger Things: The weirdness of it all

Why does the Upside Down exist? What happens in Splendor?

There’s only so much explanation given in either the show or the book, and this is a strength. We still don’t know what the Mind Flayer’s plans are for Hawkins; we don’t initially know why the presence in Splendor chose that place to appear.

Henry’s ultimate solution doesn’t quite satisfy, though it does go back to the central themes of the book. All the same, things do fall apart at the end.

If it hasn’t been made clear, yet, this book is a good read to help pass the time until Stranger Things comes back on July 4 — and after you read Suspicious Minds, which really is a tie-in to the show. Does it stand out in terms of March releases? Not necessarily, but it certainly deserves some attention.

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Have you read When the Sky Fell on Splendor? What did you think?