I’m a huge fan of Stranger Things, so was immediately intrigued by Emily Henry’s When the Sky Fell on Splendor, which is obviously referencing the TV show with the cover. The alien component as well was interesting, since I’ve heard multiple people in the YA publishing sphere mention how aliens just kind of aren’t a thing for some reason, even though vampires, werewolves, mermaids, and their ilk have all had a turn in the spotlight. I #amwriting an alien book right now (lol, how cringy can I make this post? 😀 ). Even though my book’s more New Adult than YA, anything new even tangentially related to aliens right now is interesting to me, even just from a market research standpoint.
So I was pumped to read this book… and then it fell a bit flat for me. Something about the prose wasn’t connecting with me—perhaps too many details and flashbacks (oh, the many flashbacks!) that distracted from the main action. There are also too many characters in the MC’s friend group; I’d have cut at least two or three of them out. I understand that Henry was trying to illustrate how the unfortunate history of their town had influenced everyone a bit differently, but it was too many people to keep track of; I had to frequently backtrack to figure out who everyone was again. If there had been fewer characters, perhaps we could have seen more depth with the character development. A smaller, more careful approach is pretty much always going to be better than a scattershot method.
Huge, ending ruining spoiler incoming…
It turns out there aren’t even any aliens in this book. The cover’s basically a total lie; instead we discover that the entity the characters encountered in the beginning of the book is the soul of someone in the town. This fit with the navel gazey feel of the book, but I still felt a bit lied to as a reader. If I see an alien spacecraft on the cover, I want actually aliens, dammit. Don’t give me that huge tease, then only serve up misdirection. It was disappointing, rather than surprising. That was the point at which my three star review dropped down to two, since I felt it was kind of a betrayal of the audience.
So this is a sad pass for me, despite some fun moments throughout.