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Stranger Things book 'Rebel Robin' explores what Maya Hawke's fan-favorite character was up to in Season 1

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Jun 17, 2021, 10:00 AM EDT

Robin Buckley, Maya Hawke's breakout character from Season 3 of Stranger Things, is taking the spotlight in a brand-new YA novel, Rebel Robin. Written by A.R. Capetta, the book serves as a prequel, exploring what Robin was up to during the events of the show's first season. Turns out, she was confronting a monster of her own — one very different from the Demogorgon.

"For me, I looked at it in terms of her being a gay teenager in a small town and what that’s like," Capetta tells SYFY WIRE. "I ended up sort of inverting the idea that it’s about a very normal small town where these scary things are happening to look at the fact that sometimes when you’re an outsider or marginalized in a small town, the thing that can feel like the source of the horror is actually the forces of normality and hegemony that happen in that town."

Before putting any words to the page, Capetta did their homework, watching all three seasons and scouring the internet for interviews with Hawke. "I ... looked at everything I could find in terms of how the character was developed," the author recalls. "Because from what I learned from looking at a lot of interviews that Maya did, it seemed like a very collaborative process with the Duffer Brothers in which they figured out who she was as the story was developing and where they thought she might initially be as a character... not necessarily where she ended up, and they let it be organic and be open to these possibilities."

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive chapter from the upcoming book, which features cameos from iconic Stranger Things players like Nancy Wheeler, Steve Harrington (Robin's future Scoops Ahoy co-worker), and most importantly, Barb!

"I had fun figuring out the ways that various characters could weave in and out," Capetta explains. "Because it takes place in an earlier timeline, you better believe that I brought back some people who have left the show in dramatic ways. You get to have another fun glimpse of some of your favorites who might no longer be around on the show ... The one character I couldn’t quite work onto the page was Eleven, but you get a hint of her in the story as well."

Being a prequel and all, Rebel Robin doesn't contain any teasers for Season 4 (the epilogue brings readers to the very moment we first meet Robin at the mall in Season 3). With that said, Capetta was still able to glean some hints about where the character is headed in future episodes.

"I will say there were certain things that I couldn’t do in Robin’s story," Capetta reveals. "I obviously can’t talk about any specifics or what I know might happen in the future of the show, but there were certain things I couldn’t do in this story because they were slated to happen on the show. They’re for Robin’s character, and I’m so, so thrilled about some of the places that they’re going to take Robin as the show continues. So keep watching…"

Once you've read the prose, you can check out Surviving Hawkins, the scripted companion podcast, which features Hawke back in the role ahead of the new season. The first episode — there are six in total — drops the same day as the novel: Tuesday, June 29.

"It was really kind of this fun creative relay race where there’s the show, and then I got to write the prequel, and then as soon as I handed in that story, they saw more story possibility there and developed the podcast around the events of the prequel," Capetta says. "So, it’s six episodes that are not just interpreting scenes from the book, but are kind of taking place and expanding a certain storyline within that book."

Credit: Penguin Random House/Netflix

Read SYFY WIRE's exclusive excerpt below:

Chapter Eight

September 12, 1983

The class flees at the first shriek of the bell. Even Dash leaves me alone to face the music. I just don’t know what kind of music it’s going to be. Classic rock (aka Mr. Hauser pretends to be hardcore but actually acts like any standard teacher who’s been interrupted during class)? Sappy pop (aka Mr. Hauser tries to bond with me)? New wave (aka Mr. Hauser says things that don’t technically make sense but sound kind of deep)?

After everyone else is gone, I stand there, balancing my notebooks on my hip, waiting for Mr. Hauser to actually speak.

“Am I in some kind of trouble?” I finally ask.

“Probably,” he says as he erases the chalkboard, leaving the names of the characters from Lord of the Flies there in white, ghostly imprints. “But not with me.”

How much did he hear me say to Dash?

Is he going to tell my parents?

I’m not ready for them to know about Europe until the plan is in better shape. Right now, it’s just a bunch of desperate decisions I made in the last thirty-six hours, fueled by sleeplessness and my clandestine stash of Cheetos.

I need (more) time. And (any) money.

Mr. Hauser doesn’t seem to care that passing period is only two minutes long. I’m going to be late for my next class. Not that I really want to go to my next class. I just don’t want anyone to notice me not being there.

I don’t want anyone to notice me at all, until I’m gone.

Mr. Hauser sits down slowly and frowns at me. He’s probably about thirty, but he frowns like an eighty-year-old. It’s a masterpiece of concerned wrinkles. His eyes pinch up behind dark, nearly square glasses. He looks old and wise and not happy about either of those things. It doesn’t help that he’s wearing a brown tweed jacket and shiny brown shoes, both of which add at least ten years. Maybe he does it on purpose, since he has a little bit of a baby face.

Wow, the second bell just rang, and he’s still frowning.

It’s starting to feel like time is stuck. Or Mr. Hauser and I have fallen into some kind of weird temporary paralysis. I wave my hand in the air, just to make sure that we’re not actually frozen.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Just making sure that we’re not stuck in some kind of glitch in the space-time continuum.”

Mr. Hauser shakes his head. “You’re very strange, Robin.”

I don’t know if teachers are allowed to say this to us, but the way Mr. Hauser does, it doesn’t sound like a bad thing, like he’s ridiculing me because he knows he can get away with it. (Some people never grow out of that behavior, and I’m starting to wonder how many of those people become high school teachers. It must become some kind of horrible comfort zone.) When Mr. Hauser tells me I’m strange, though, it sounds almost like a compliment. “In fact, you might be the Weirdest Girl in Hawkins, Indiana.”

The way he says it, I can tell it’s capitalized.

But I can’t tell if it’s a good thing. Mr. Hauser clearly thinks it is, but he also must know that it’s not easy to be that weird. A tiny pinch of weird is like spice on the top of someone’s personality. When you’re seriously weird, monumentally weird, Sheena Rollins weird, you only have two choices: tone it down for everybody else every single day or live with the consequences.

Mr. Hauser pulls out a sheet from his desk. It’s mostly blank, with a few names written on lines. And the words Our Town at the top. “Robin, have you thought about signing up for the play?”

“You wanted me to stay after class because I was talking too much to say that I should talk onstage?”

“Maybe it’s a better outlet,” he says.

“I’m already in band,” I say. “I play the French horn, well actually it’s a mellophone for marching band, which is basically the same thing, but I’m the only one, which means I really can’t skip out. Plus my squad would . . . well, I don’t know if they would miss me, but there would only be three of them and they would definitely have to fix all the formations and I’d never hear the end of that, so whatever glorious future I had as a thespian looks like it’s over before it started. Sorry.”

What I don’t add is this: I don’t have time to add another activity if I’m going to get a job and make enough money for a round-trip plane ticket and European hostels and train rides and a bike rental. Oh, and croissants.

Every single day, I’m going to eat one for breakfast. That adds up to a lot of croissant money.

I’m going to need time to build up to that kind of small fortune. Some kids in Hawkins (like Dash) get allowance just for existing and maybe picking up a piece of trash or two around the house. Kate gets money every birthday and Easter and Christmas, as a payout for good behavior. Her parents never call it that, but last year she skipped a youth group meeting to get her ears pierced, and even though she got little crosses for her studs, there were no fat envelopes in her Christmas stocking. Some teenagers in this town would be halfway to buying their plane tickets without even lifting a finger. But my parents told me that they’re not going to commodify my childhood.

Even if they did, I probably would have spent it all on records and books by now.

Mr. Hauser pushes the audition sign-up sheet across the desk. “I can make sure none of your rehearsals conflict with band. I just think that you should give it a chance before you rush off to Europe.”

“You heard that part?” I ask with a cringe.

Mr. Hauser’s face goes stony. It doesn’t look parental, though. The old-man act falls away, and suddenly he seems like he’s only a few years older than me. Like thirty is a stretch. Like he’s barely on the other side of his own shitty adolescence. “Robin, if you ever feel like you are about to run away, I need you to find me.”

And do what?

How could Mr. Hauser help me not run away?

Besides.

“I’m not running.” Why doesn’t anyone seem to understand this? “I’m traveling.”

“Right,” he says, the old curmudgeon shtick falling back into place. He takes off his glasses. Wipes them on his shirtfront. “Well, if you’re ever going to spontaneously travel because you can’t stand being here anymore, let me know. Okay?”

“Okay, okay,” I promise.

“And, Robin? You should bring someone with you.”

“Who?” I ask, reflexively.

Kate would theoretically be an amazing person to travel with, in terms of her interest in art, history, architecture, and food. But would she really be able to focus on those things with all of the international hotness surrounding her? What if she spent the whole trip pushing me to grab the nearest French guy and practice?

No. Just. No.

Dash has already proven that he’s not the right choice for this particular venture.

Milton and I aren’t very close—and besides, his anxiety level would be a little bit difficult to navigate while also trying to find my way around the (infamously confusing) streets of Venice.

Outside of Odd Squad, nobody else comes to mind.

“Seriously, I’m drawing a big old blank here,” I say.

“I can’t tell you who to bring on your trip of a lifetime,” Mr. Hauser says. “That falls into the category of trying to control your life, instead of just annoyingly nudging you in the right direction.”

I laugh, right out loud. Which is weird, indeed. Teachers aren’t supposed to be funny.

“I just know that if you have someone to share your history with, it stays alive.”

I lean in and pretend-whisper, “I hate to tell you this, but you’re not a history teacher.”

“No, I’m an English teacher. Which means I know that plenty of better books than Lord of the Flies have died in obscurity because nobody remembered them. While this,” he says, slapping a paperback onto his desk, “seems to live forever because the school board just won’t let it go.”

“Hmm,” I say. “Maybe you have a point.”

My parents definitely keep each other’s memories alive. Sometimes their entire dinner conversations are just long, two-person reminiscence-fests. And if that wasn’t enough, they get together with their old friends every December (they call it Hippie Christmas) to relive their best stories and let their hair down. (Though they can only do that part metaphorically at this point. I feel bad for the balding hippies who spend their time talking about the lost glory of their long, glowing manes. Is that how Steve Harrington is going to feel when he’s forty?)

My mind goes back to those pictures on the floor. How my parents never seemed to be alone, no matter where they went. Being on an adventure with other people—the right people—might have made them feel a little braver, pushed them a little further, show the world even more of themselves. (And I’m not talking about the photos of my mom at a nude beach.) Besides, when I think about going to Europe, it’s not as much fun to imagine sitting at coffee shops and riding bikes and being moody on trains without someone else right there. To share it all with.

(Not the croissants—those are mine.)

So, I don’t just need money to get to Europe. I need money and someone to go with me.

My workload just doubled, which means I need to get busy.

I push the audition sign-up back toward Mr. Hauser.

“Sorry,” I say. “I just don’t have the time.”

Mr. Hauser sighs. “Well, this will be up in the main hallway of the school next week if you change your mind. Auditions are next Friday.”

“Got it,” I say.

“Here,” he says. “Let me give you a late pass.”

He fills it in with a quick scribble and then I finally leave. The hallways are shiny and silent and empty except for the hall monitor, Barb Holland. She’s wearing jeans that are nearly as out of fashion as mine, though hers are a faded country-western blue, while mine are indigo. Her shirt is both plaid and ruffled. Her hair is both short and feathered. She exists on the edge of the nerd kingdom; she’s definitely as nervous as Milton and as into school as Kate, but she’s also best friends with Nancy Wheeler. Who must be edging toward popular if Steve Harrington really wants to go out with her.

Barb looks bored, standing with her back against a locker. She’s got a glazed look on her face. But maybe she’s in the middle of some great daydream, because she’s got a hint of a secret smile.

It reminds me of when we were friends, a million years ago. We weren’t inseparable, like she and Nancy are now, but we were definitely drawn to each other. Always on the same playground equipment. Laughing at the same jokes. Splitting our grape juice boxes because we agree it’s the superior flavor. Plus, at some point she and Nancy became an official duo. But I remember that look, like she was smirking at all of reality, creating an alternate version of life in her head, and if you were lucky, she’d tell you about it.

She’s managed to get out of an entire class period by volunteering as hall monitor. It’s really a very sneaky way to ditch, if you think about it.

Way to go, Barb.

“Hey, can I see your pass?” she asks, about two seconds after I walk by her in the hall.

“Sure,” I say.

She looks at it and snorts.

“All right, you can go.”

I wonder what that snort meant. I look down at the hall pass Mr. Hauser wrote for me. He filled it out dutifully with his name, my name, the date, and the class period. Under Reason for Tardiness, he wrote, Fixing a glitch in the space-time continuum.

Wow. Well done, Mr. Hauser.

 

Stranger Things: Rebel Robin goes on sale from Penguin Random House on Tuesday, June 29. You can pre-order a copy right here.