The loss of parents is one of the most recurring tropes in fiction. Spider-Man, Batman, Luke Skywalker, a bunch of characters in the Bible, and of course, Eleven from Stranger Things. But in the Netflix horror series’ first tie-in novel, Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond, fans get to meet Eleven’s parents together for the first time, including her father, who’s unseen in the TV show.
Unfortunately, fans also experience the tragic fates that befalls them both.
Spoilers for Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds and maybe Season 3 ahead.
The first Stranger Things tie-in novel, Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds released Tuesday, is a prequel to the first season of the series. Set in 1969, the book follows a young woman named Terry Ives (played by Aimee Mullins in the show) who falls in love with a half-rebel, half-Lord of the Rings dork named Andrew. During their romance, Terry participates in a scientific experiment led by the cold and calculating Dr. Brenner (played by Matthew Modine).
You can guess where this goes: Terry soon becomes pregnant. She names the child “Jane” after Jane Goodall, based on an otherworldly sign in the form of the 1965 National Geographic cover with anthropologist Jane Goodall. And Jane, as Season 2 of the show revealed, is the real name of Eleven.
While Terry is the protagonist of the book through whose point of view readers experience the story, it’s the identity and fate of Andrew that adds new layers to Eleven’s origins. After he’s drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, Andrew is killed in action without knowing he had a baby waiting for him back home.
Meanwhile, the book injects more villainy into Dr. Brenner, leader of the experiment and the series’ main antagonist (aside from the Demogorgon). Suspicious Minds strongly hints Brenner orchestrated Andrew’s draft, and possibly even his death, though it’s left vague specifically how he did it. He also uses drugs to keep Terry from realizing she’s pregnant, though it’s unclear exactly how that works.
Regardless, there’s no question that Dr. Brenner is a villain, and one passage in particular helps illustrate his disturbing obsession with Jane/Eleven:
“[Dr. Brenner] wondered if Terry Ives was still babbling to her sister and any reporter who’d listen about how he’d stolen her child. The child was his. She should’ve listened to him when he told her.”
Like many tie-in novels, Suspicious Minds is a supplementary, enjoyable experience tide over super-fans until the show’s third season premiere this summer. Like the show, the book is steeped in nostalgia for an era gone by: Woodstock, Volkswagen vans, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Adam West Batman series, and the beginning of Marvel’s X-Men comics are cultural touchstones that appear throughout the book.
Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds is available now on Amazon. Stranger Things Season 3 premieres July 4 on Netflix.