Book Review: 'Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds' by Gwenda Bond

What does it take for a book to impact you greatly? To latch itself onto you? To mess with your mind? It requires an awful lot: a well-woven plot, a vividly created world, and an author with wit (though the latter might just be a personal opinion). ‘Suspicious Minds’ is a novel with all of these crucial elements. Very narrowly fitting into the YA age rating of 12+, this book by Gwenda Bond (author of the popular ‘Lois Lane’ series) has received a large amount of critical reviews. However, throughout this review, I shall be explaining why I think so differently from the majority.

I have never actually watched the popular TV series ‘Stranger Things’, and though I have been meaning to watch it for some time now, I shall have to wait at least a year before I can experience its widely-known glory. But by chance, I found Bond’s science-fiction novel, ‘Suspicious Minds’, which happens to be the prequel to the TV series, and (after seeing that I was at an age that I could read this – a considerable victory) I knew that this was the next book I was going to find myself lost in. And so that was how I found myself after perusing the first page.

‘Suspicious Minds’ is structured in a rather unorthodox way. Not only is the book divided into chapters, the chapters are divided into different sections, based on each character’s perspective. Though at first, I found this constant switching confusing, as I went through the novel, I learned to appreciate the extra perspectives I was given on each part of the story – in fact, I have even considered working it into my own writing!

Amidst the critical feedback, many reviewers praise Bond for putting women front and centre in her novel. Terry Ives – the female protagonist of ‘Suspicious Minds’ – is a clear fighter from the start, standing her ground when she is oppressed – she is the true epitome of girl power that many feminists were glad to see present in the book.

It is unbelievably hard to create a realistic background and setting for a book – being a writer myself, I know the struggle. So of course, I was very impressed when I was deeply entangled in Bond’s science-fiction tale and I realised that the world she had created was clearly envisioned in my head. 1969, in which ‘Suspicious Minds’ is set in, was a year filled with defining moments for most of the world. Bond cleverly includes the groundbreaking Moon landings, Woodstock, and the then-popular Lord of the Rings (all well-known pop-culture views of the ’60s) in her writing, and expertly interweaves them into the story. One symbolic event that I particularly found interesting was the Vietnam War, which she managed to work in alongside the war of willpower and intellect our protagonist Terry was fighting. Of course, some of these icons might be unrecognisable to younger readers such as me, but it no doubt adds a sense of realism all the same.

Some critics dismiss ‘Suspicious Minds’ as simply a childish sci-fi story, but I believe there is a deeper meaning behind Bond’s ‘ramblings’. “You want to turn me into a machine […]. But I already am one. We all are.” This is said by Alice, one of Terry’s friends. For me, this quote is so profound, as it acknowledges a fact we can no longer deny. We all have surrendered to the autopilot mode of life. We act like robots. We are robots. In fact, we, the human race, can be monsters, as Bond goes on to say metaphorically when the plot escalates (and since I am a person with a heart, I will not give examples, as that would mean disclosing spoilers).

However, it seems as though the complaints about Bond’s novel do have some truth to them. At times, I did feel that most of a few chapters were comprised solely of quickly-written filler, which the novel could have done without. Also, some of the main characters seemed as though they had not been developed fully, or had clichéd personalities.

But despite these negative reviews, ‘Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds’ by Gwenda Bond will forever be on my reread list. Indeed, it is one of those books that will impact you greatly, latch itself onto you, and mess with your mind. I am not ashamed to admit that this book was constantly in my hands for a total of 3 days; it had become my breath, my soul, my extra limb, my very welcome parasite! So if you are a hardcore ‘Stranger Things’ fan, love all things sci-fi, or are just stuck to find your next read, give this a go! Who knows? You might find yourself wrapped up in this novel like Terry Ives finds herself wrapped up in trouble…

Fun Fact: The book’s title is based on Elvis’ popular song, ‘Suspicious Minds’.

My Dadajee's Super Sweet 70th Birthday!

If you were to choose one inspirational person from your life, who would it be? Your mum? Your dad? Your teacher? Greta Thunberg? The world has so many motivational people out there, but it takes someone special to stand out to you personally. For me, that is my Dadajee!

I have always looked up to everyone in my family. My parents, for not only being present in my childhood, but for being involved; my aunt @drauntie.uk, for being an amazing role model; and of course, my Mamajee @adamdidam, for being the bright spark in my life.

But Dadajee is something else altogether. He is all of these things – and more! There are over a million words in the English language, but not a single one can fully describe just how PAWSOME my Dadajee is!

Dadajee has always been the one everyone in our family looks to for advice. They say that with age comes wisdom, but as far as I can tell, wisdom came to him before age did! After all, he was the one that taught Mrs Mom, Dr Auntie, Mamajee, and everyone else the valuable qualities they have today – take, for example, speaking confidently, a skill which Dadajee taught so well it has even been passed on to Fatimah!

So earlier on, I said that there are no words to describe my Dadajee, but if there’s anything that comes close, it would be ‘jack of all trades’! That’s right, Dadajee is multi-talented, and even after knowing him for 13 years, he still never fails to surprise me with his skills. His many talents account for his ever-interesting personality – not a dull moment goes by when you’re with my Dadajee!

But most importantly, my Dadajee is LOVING, KIND, FUNNY and HUMBLE! If there is anyone I would follow in the footsteps of, it is my Dadajee. And what with the loss of our beloved Mamajee, when we were all struggling, Dadajee proved just how CARING he was by holding us all together when the glue that bound us weakened with the loss. Truly, I aspire to be just like my Dadajee when I grow up!

Dadajee’s 70th birthday is certainly a day we all look upon as a day to celebrate not Dadajee’s age, but himself, as a person with a brilliant character! After all, it is not age that defines a person, but their values and characteristics. Dadajee deserves to be celebrated, and we are all very lucky to have him!

Happy 70th Birthday Dadajee! May Allah make this a day full of joy and cheer. May He grant you many more happy, healthy years of life and may He reserve you the highest place in Jannah. Last but not least, I just want to say that I love you with all my heart, just as you are, and that I never want you to change, because you are already PAWSOME!

Love,

Omar Mukhtar – Dadajee’s 1st Grandson

p/s: Please come back to visit soon! All of your family here in the U.K. miss you very much…❤️

Goodbye 2019…Hello 2020!

It’s officially 2020! Wow! One year has already gone? Time flies by so fast. The new year is all about new beginnings, but I can’t seem to let go of 2019. So much has happened during last year, such big events have taken place!

Yes, 2019 was truly unforgettable. It has witnessed one of my greatest triumphs, and one of our family’s greatest losses. This was the year that I had managed to fulfil one of my lifelong dreams…I finally published my very first book, ‘My New Pair Of Eyes’! But with what I gained came loss. Yes, only a few weeks after I published my book, not only did I lose my beloved Mamajee @adamdidam, but we all lost a part of ourselves. It was a year that witnessed our darkest hour, and we were all tested to our limits.

We were all affected deeply. But as difficult a time as it has been, 2019 not only tested us, but shaped us. We went in holding on to the strength we had, but we came out stronger. I believe that 2019 has prepared us for a fresh start in 2020. We’re on our way to personal success – we’ve wiped our slate clean, and we’ll be drawing a road that goes only up.

As for me, as I travel up that road, there is some emotional baggage that I’ve accumulated over the year that I want to be letting go of. There are memories that I want to keep safe but smile instead of cry when I think of them. 2020 is an opportunity that I want to take to achieve greater things, try new things, take risks – and try my best not to start so many things and not finish them!

I have a feeling that 2020 will be a year of surprises, opportunities, and new beginnings not only for me, but for my whole family. I was lost in 2019, but as I step into the new year, I pray that I will find myself, that I will find my strength, and that we all will rise up again.

Happy 2020,

Omar Mukhtar