There is something about the way that I appreciate fiction these days in that it’s the stuff that I see parts of myself in that hit the hardest. A lot of my reviews here are self-reflective to a lesser or greater extent. It’s probably a knock on effect of not knowing who I really was or not seeing myself in things for most of the first three decades of my life. With Stranger Things, or more specifically the fic written by the Stranger Things fandom, the things that end up hitting the hardest is Steve Harrington POV. Which could seem weird, given my current tastes. Almost everything I’ve been reading recently has been female pov and sapphic and even I am not trying to headcannon Steve into being a trans woman (Eddie on the other hand…). And don’t get me wrong, I’m a big team Ronance shipper over here, but with Steve fic, so often in the way that I see it written, it’s the combination of the trauma and the expectations that hit so hard.
Steve is someone for whom the world, and his parents, had expectations and I can’t help but empathise with that. It’s alienating to move into and through your twenties and watch the world around you move on and have this feeling that you aren’t who people expected or wanted from you. But it’s also exhilarating to discover that you can still find a place for yourself, and that you haven’t missed your chance at happiness.
Broken into parts that focus on different aspects and occasionally are essentially side fics (including a really lovely Erica & Eddie focussed story that is low key the best Erica stuff I have read, although in fairness her age at the time of the events of the canon series mean she is sort of in an awkward spot to have a major role in a lot of the fics I read), Let us Dwell in Fair Ithilien and There Make a Garden (for now) is anchored by two works that really made me kind of a mess more than any fic I have read since watching the show for the first time over the summer. The first part is the story of Steve and Eddie getting together in late 2001 after a decade plus of distant feelings, and the second is a series of chapters set at three weddings and a funeral over the course of the 90s, emotionally climaxing at Hopper’s funeral where a recently divorced Steve realises that he is in love with Eddie.
The way that the trauma is compassionately drawn, the way that the authors illustrate the way that whilst time can heal some wounds, it can’t resolve everything, really gave the whole thing a melancholy, strained feeling, even in it’s happy moments. The ending of chapter three of the second part, the moment when Steve admits his feelings to Robin, tired and emotionally raw by the death of a father figure and the recent dissolution of his marriage, is probably the moment in fic that has most had me an sobbing wreck this year.