Book Review: Pen Pal by Dathan Auerbach

Book: Pen Pal

Author: Dathan Auerbach

Book Description:

Penpal began as a series of short and interconnected stories posted on an online horror forum. Before long, it was adapted into illustrations, audio recordings, and short films; and that was before it was revised and expanded into a novel!

How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a man investigates the seemingly unrelated bizarre, tragic, and horrific occurrences of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them. Beginning with only fragments of his earliest years, you'll follow the narrator as he discovers that these strange and horrible events are actually part of a single terrifying story that has shaped the entirety of his life and the lives of those around him. If you've ever stayed in the woods just a little too long after dark, if you've ever had the feeling that someone or something was trying to hurt you, if you remember the first friend you ever made and how strong that bond was, then Penpal is a story that you won't soon forget, despite how you might try.

My Review and Thoughts.

This is a strange and odd tale of a story. I will not lie, it took me up to about page 60, before I became interested. There is a lot of filler story, or describing characters and basic mundane life, moments, etc. etc. which can be a plus and a downfall. The story ends up having just enough moments to keep pulling you forward. It makes you slowly transgress into the plot, as it slowly unfolds page after page. This is most definitely a slow burn book, but captures each segment in anticipation; on what is to happen next.

I was all for the puzzle pieces that complete the plot. The flashes in the past, and the present narrative, lead to the ultimate conclusion. It can seem long winded in story, but it also allows you to appreciate each growing character, and the slow puzzle pieces that tip toe to the completion.

Another huge plus to the story is the small amount of characters. Something that always bugs me about writers, is many of them, use way to many characters, and it ends up becoming frustrating to follow, or remember a particular character. Pen Pal has no problem there. Not even a handful of characters. It allows you a personal setting with each player. The main focus is crystal clear.

I am so glad I stuck with it. Like I say it took 60 pages, and even after that I almost gave up on it, but was so happy that I stuck with it because, Auerbach leads you down a path, giving you little tiny bread crumbs, leading to the ultimate, unbelievable outcome that truly shocks and leaves you stunned with amazement.

The completed puzzle is thoroughly dynamic. Another amazing thing is the childlike wonder described and detailed through the childhood narrative. The exploration of the woods. The swimming in the lake. The map making. The balloons, which I also amazingly did in elementary school. I sent off a letter by balloon and mine was one of only 3 that came back out of 110 balloons. It was great hearing this as a main part of the story.

Yeah the story leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions, but that also can be it's charm. The mysterious allows you to use your ultimate imagination.

Would I Return: Once was enough. But I will adventure into anything he writes. He is a great long winded storyteller that captures brilliant characters.

Would I Recommend: Absolutely. Anyone that loves a chapter, puzzle style mystery that unfolds in slow piece detail, then this is for you.

Pages: 238 pages

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

How I Read: Book Form

Four Final Words: Creepy. Brilliantly pieced. Mysterious