Tag Archives: ages 10-15

Stranger Things a la 1980

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

Okay Stranger Things was set in the 80’s, but let’s not quibble…

Have you seen Stranger Things yet? Did you like it? Do you like X-Files? Goonies? Stephen King? Roald Dahl’s Matilda? Winona Ryder? For me, all of these questions are answered with a resounding YES! So, Stranger Things was the ultimate awesome for me. I loved it. I loved the soundtrack. And like anyone who is slightly obsessed, I wanted more.

 

That need apparently led me to a book list that included Willo Davis Roberts’ The Girl with the Silver Eyes, and oh boy…

First, the synopsis: A girl (around 10?), with silver eyes, lives with her single mother in an apartment. The girl is hard on her mother, because until recently, her mother had left the girl to be raised by her grandmother, but grandma died, so now the girl has to live with her dippy mother again. The girl’s name is Katie. Like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Katie can move objects with her eyes, and she uses this power to wreak havoc on nasty neighbors and unqualified babysitters. Most of the story takes place inside Katie’s apartment building; it’s summer, so Katie never has any reason to leave. One night Katie overhears a conversation between her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. They are talking about Katie, how they are secretly frightened of her, and her mother tells a story about the time she was pregnant with Katie. She worked at a company that manufactured a painkilling drug. Sometimes the (pregnant) women took the medication. After a while the medication was found to be harmful, and was discontinued. Beyond this story, Katie’s mom really doesn’t put two and two together, but Katie, being the young little genius she is, decides to investigate. She wants to find the other mothers who took the drug, and see if there are other kids out there that share her gift. Meanwhile, Katie has to contend with horrible babysitters, and a new neighbor that takes an (creepy) interest in Katie.

The parallel to Stranger Things is obvious; a young girl with powers generated by a drug given to her mother at birth.

And that’s where the similarities end. This was an awful book. In fact, it was so bad I kept reading just to see how absurd it could get. It didn’t disappoint. Katie is the worst. I cared nothing for her stupid Matilda power, other than finding it very unfair that such a stinker would be bestowed with such cool abilities. She does nothing interesting with her powers except plague other people. No imagination. Oh, and something I left out; Katie can also communicate with animals, as in: she can tell them what to do and what not to do through mind control… and the creepy guy asking all the questions about Katie was: SURPRISE! a scientist looking for kids with powers (not a pedophile). He had a “special” school for them. It was all just too much, or not enough, or somewhere in between.

Its copyright date is 1980 (pre- John Hughes), which makes perfect sense, because there’s no sensitivity for Katie or her plight. Katie’s been raised by her grandmother, because her parents gave her away. Adults are frightened of her, she has no friends, there’s a creepy man following her around, she’s stuck in a small cramped apartment, she loves to read, but no one will take her to a library…. Poor Katie, but never once did I feel sorry for her. She was cardboard, words on a page…

So, watch Stranger Things, cuz it’s the bomb… but skip The Girl with Silver Eyes.

Here’s a few Stranger Things- themed reading lists (Paper Girls is really good!)

Book Riot

Electric Literature

The Verge

Bustle

Paste Magazine