Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds is the first official novel based on the Netflix original series, Stranger Things. Written by Gwenda Bond, it serves as a prequel to the series.
The novel focuses on Eleven's mother, Terry Ives, and her time spent behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory.
A college student in Indiana in 1969, Terry is far away from the Vietnam War and the protests going on in Washington. She is aware of the world changing and isn't content to just sit around and watch. She wants to help make the world a better place so, when her roommate, Stacey, tells her about a government experiment she's a part of but really doesn't want to continue, Terry hatches a plan to take her place.
Terry is quickly found out, but the lab director, Dr. Martin Brenner decides to let her stay on. Meeting weekly with several other test subjects, she is given LSD and asked questions about what she's seeing and feeling. As time progresses, she runs across a little girl named Kali, who is referred to as 008, and realizes that there's more to what's going on in the lab than meets the eye. She starts comparing notes with Gloria, Alice and Ken, her fellow lab rats, to find that each one is being treated differently during their sessions and that Dr. Brenner seems to be a bit obsessed about Terry. Why is he administering her treatment personally?
Terry's boyfriend, Andrew, is privy to the fact that Terry wants to uncover the mystery of what's going on, and he supports her cause to find out. He suddenly finds himself ejected from school and drafted, leaving Terry at a loss over losing her lifeline outside of the lab.
Behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory, and the piercing gaze of its director, lurks a conspiracy greater than Terry could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including Kali who has unexplainable powers.
I enjoyed the new characters and thought the author fleshed them out nicely. Gloria is an intelligent African American student with a love of science who signed on to Hawkins to get extra credit at college. Alice is a mechanic, with no formal education, who likes to take apart machines and rebuild them to figure out how they work; she signed up to earn some extra cash for a new car. Ken, who is sometimes psychic, is an outcast from his family because he had a vision that he would fall in love with a man who works for Hawkins, thus leading him to volunteer to be a test subject. Andrew simply believes in Terry and making the world a better place.
I also liked the fact that this book filled in several blanks about characters from season two of Stranger Things, like the connections between Kali, Eleven and Terry, making the addition of Kali much more interesting and important to the storyline.
Looking over other reviews for this book, I see that some folks were expecting to jump right into the current world of Stranger Things and didn't enjoy it because it wasn't centered around the characters they know and love. If that is what you're looking for, then this is not the book you want. If, on the other hand, you are looking to learn more about the origins of Eleven, then I think you will enjoy this read. ~~ Dee Astell