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Book Excerpt: ‘Stranger Things’ Prequel Novel Reveals Eleven’s Mother’s Backstory (EXCLUSIVE)

Stranger Things” fans will get a deeper look into both Eleven’s mother and Dr. Brenner in the show’s official prequel novel “Suspicious Minds.”

The book reveals how Terry Ives–whom fans of the show will remember for her iconic “Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow” moment–first came into contact with Brenner as part of the secretive MKULTRA project.

The book is written by Gwenda Bond, who also worked closely with “Stranger Things” staff writer Paul Dichter on the book. It will be released by Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, on Feb. 5

In the excerpt below, Ives meets Dr. Brenner for the first time.

“Sit,” the man said, waving his hand to the exam table. He had a tone of authority, like he was used to giving commands.

Terry hesitated, then perched on the edge of the table. Her feet dangled, a reminder she wasn’t on solid ground.

The man stood looking at her. Finally, when the silence began to get awkward, he asked, “And you are?”

Before she could decide how to answer, he continued, “I know you’re not Stacey Sullivan.”

That was quick.

“How?” The question slipped out.

“According to the notes made by the university staffer who provided her name, Stacey Sullivan has curly black hair. She’s five-three. Brown eyes. Average IQ.”

Terry was offended on Stacey’s behalf.

“You,” the man continued, “are five-eight with dark blond hair and blue eyes. My assessment of your intelligence depends on why you’re here claiming to be Miss Sullivan, but I’m going to guess it’s above average. So, who are you?”

His tone was casual. However Terry had expected this to go, this wasn’t it.

“Well, you’re not Stacey’s lab rat either,” Terry said, realizing it was true. Not only was this scene completely different from Stacey’s story, but no one would describe this man that way. “The guy who gave her drugs that made her feel weird last week. The reason she didn’t come back. So, who are you?”

She wondered if he’d answer.

He shook his head in something that might be amusement. “I’m Dr. Martin Brenner. That was a university psychologist working on a subcontract. They have a habit of botching the procedures. That’s why we’re taking this work over.” He paused. “Your turn.”

Fair enough.

“I’m Terry Ives, Stacey’s roommate,” she said.

“And so I have no idea if you meet any of the screening criteria set out for this experiment,” Dr. Brenner said.

“I talked to some of the others outside—they answered a newspaper ad. How strict can it be?”

He stilled, giving her that long considering look again.

She went on, encouraged by not being kicked out yet.

Terry stood up so they’d be face-to-face, not him looming above her. “I volunteered to take Stacey’s place, because I . . . could sense this is important. It’s too weird otherwise. Labs don’t call college-age women in to give them drugs. Not just for that, at least.”

“What is it you think this is, then?” Dr. Brenner asked.

Terry shrugged. “I read the release forms. All I can tell is that whatever this is, it’s something . . . big. I want to be a part of it.”

“Hm.” The grunt hit a skeptical note.

“What do I need to qualify?” she asked. “Tell me.”

“Are you single?”

Andrew’s face flashed in her head. “I’m unmarried.”

“Healthy?” he asked.

“I’ve never missed a single shift at the diner where I work.”

He nodded, approving. “Have you ever had sexual intercourse?”

She went stiff. This wasn’t the kind of conversation women had with unfamiliar men. Unfamiliar government doctors seemed even less appropriate.

“I’m afraid I need candor from our participants,” he said with a tone of apology.

“Yes.” Terry didn’t elaborate.

Another nod. “And have you ever given birth?”

“No,” she said.

“Are you strong-willed?”

Terry considered. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“I suspect you do meet the basic criteria. But . . .” He paused, studying her.

He didn’t seem sold, not yet.

She searched her memory for what Alice had said about that advertisement in the paper. She didn’t think he’d be interested in the qualities she might list in her outstanding abilities column: able to serve six to eight tables without forgetting anyone’s order (harder than it sounded), never mixing up caf and decaf, doing homework at the last minute and still getting decent grades, making Andrew laugh when he didn’t want to, occasionally cheering up Becky . . .

“And I am remarkable,” she said.

“Fine,” he said, as if a scale had tipped. Or maybe he was humoring her. “I suppose you are. Now sit down.”

Terry hated being told what to do, but again, she sat.

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