Title: Suspicious Minds
Author: Gwenda Bond
Length: 9 hours
Genre: Science Fiction
I had no idea this book existed until the day I listened to it.
I found Suspicious Minds by chance while I scrolled through available audiobooks on my Libby app. The cover captured my attention first with its unmistakable Stranger Things title design, and then I read the blurb.
– This review contains possible spoilers for the Stranger Things TV show. –
In summary, the events of Suspicious Minds predated those of Stranger Things to tell the story of how Eleven’s mother, Terry Ives, became involved in the Hawkins lab experiments. Set in 1969 and told through the perspectives of a rag-tag team of college students (including Terry), the story delved deeper into the origins of the government facility and underscored the twisted mind of Dr. Martin Brenner, the “villain” in both Suspicious Minds and Stranger Things. If you’re up to date with the TV show, the ending of this book will come as no surprise to you, but it may interest you to know exactly how Terry Ives story transpired.
Suspicious Minds held itself to a similar fashion as its source material. Whereas Stranger Things bursted with 80s nostalgia, Suspicious Minds substituted the 80s references for the 60s. Events like the first moon landing, the Vietnam War, and the Woodstock Music Festival were incorporated in the narrative to age the characters and set the atmosphere of the story. However, the drawback to the book format of this style of storytelling was that the historical allusions weren’t as subtly presented as in the original TV show. In the TV show, the directors were able to wordlessly capture shots filled with 80s memorabilia without disrupting the flow of the story. But, in the book, the author had no option but to plainly reference the 60s in her writing, often taking the reader away from the main plot for blocks of text at a time.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the book attempted to alternate between the POVs of each member of the cast of characters, just like in the TV show. On one hand, this allowed the reader to associate histories and personalities to names while rooting for all of the characters’ well-being. But, on the other hand, I found that the gang did not share the spotlight equally, which made some of the characters seem less fleshed out than others.
In addition to the incomplete character arcs, Suspicious Minds failed to fully detail the new background information it added to the Stranger Things world. There were many moments where I felt that I had to suspend my disbelief to enjoy the plot at face value. It seemed a bit ironic that a book that was meant to add depth to the lore of a TV show relied on a tried and true formula to deliver an ultimately cliche story.
Suspicious Minds was cliche, but it wasn’t bad. It was an interesting book to remedy the Stranger Things withdrawals I always have, even if it didn’t uphold itself to the same standards of the TV show. If you’ve finished at least Stranger Things 2 and find that you need more Hawkins in your life, I’d recommend this quick read for just that.