By Dathan Auerbach
Kindle ASIN: B008WVVKCQ
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.
Penpal was a happy accident. I stumbled upon this title after completing another eBook and noticing the odd cover among recommendations. While I did not find it quite as disturbing as some reviews may claim, it wasn’t the exactly the horror aspect of this small read that appealed to me in the long run. Although I admit to indulging in its darker qualities
This is a story that unfolds slowly as our nameless narrator endeavors to make sense of his murky childhood through recollection and the interrogation of his mother. As pieces of the puzzle fall into place what is revealed is a disconcerting past that has not only affected his own life but upset that of those closest to him.
“We all have voids in our narratives – lost time that we attempt to reclaim with best guesses.”
Penpal is a story that slowly burrows its way into the back of your mind in a memorable and unsettling sort of way but not without flaws. I find myself moving further and further away from summarizing plots and providing recaps. That is what our synopsis is for, and well once again, revelation is a crucial part of the experience here as often is the case. I am going to fall back on good ole’ pros and cons for this review. Here is a quick look at what does and does not work in within the story for myself.
- A distinctive plot that effortlessly delivers more than a few disquieting and sinister moments.
- A nonlinear narrative that is successful in contributing to the fact that our narrator is recalling and piecing together the story that is his childhood. I found a lot of appreciation in this, because it is easy to misconstrue and forget so much as we grow and I like that this is addressed in a very creative manner.
- The writing is fluid and light, remaining effective but creating an easy read.
- I am not going to lie: I love that this began as a series of creepypasta stories posted on Reddit and was then funded by Kickstarter to become a debut novel.
- The dialog and behavior were unconvincing at times because they didn’t seem to coincide well with the narrator’s age at that moment.
- I found the mother to lack credibility. Her actions and motives were super questionable at best. Some seriously poor decision-making occurs.
- The ending felt inconclusive. While it is easy to understand what happened, there were still several grey areas left to speculate on. However, maybe this is exactly what the author intended.
Ultimately, I am comfortable recommending Penpal for anyone seeking a fast and fun read with a nice hint creepiness. If you are able to move past the smaller issues within the novel, it actually manages to serve a few hours of solid entertainment. As a debut novel with interesting origins, I feel it is worth the time invested.
Just for fun, here is a YouTube upload of the entire original online Penpal series per CreepsMcPasta. This is not the full novel.