Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

penpalthe-book
Penpal 
By Dathan Auerbach
Publisher: 1000Vultures
Kindle ASIN: B008WVVKCQ
Pages: 254
Genre: Horror/Fiction

Blurb:

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-thought

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US Amazon UK  Book Depository

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44 thoughts on “Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

    1. The dialog is hard to explain because it is thorough but didn’t exactly line up with how old the narrator was supposed to be at times. For example when he is allegedly in kindergarten, the conversation was a bit more than could be expected at that age. Maybe unrealistic, but not exactly bad. I think the author needed to familiarize himself with the age groups again before writing (a little research).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So original that it started on youtube and then became a book because of its success. I do wonder though how much you can still remember of your childhood, I don’t remember much so if this comes across as a realistic account of memories he’s done a good job ;-). Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Inge 🙂 Creepypasta is pretty big here in the US with some. So it is neat to see a writer be able to take his series and create a full length novel. And I agree about memories. There is a lot that we certainly lose over time without even realizing 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes!! Creepy creepy creepy! 😀 You know how much I love that! But I really dislike when the dialogue doesn’t fit the characters’ age, that’s a big no-no for me! Love your pros and cons review, Twin Pea! It truly gives the book every chance to find its readers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely did not add points. Although it wasn’t disappointing enough to really spoil the experience, but I still had some questions. It is hard to say though, because I feel the author has intentionally left some for things for the reader to piece together 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! What a fascinating origin for a novel. I agree with you– a collection of stories from Reddit being Kickstarted into a novel is BRILLIANT. I’d love to see more like this. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t sound like my cup of tea– I really struggle with unbelievable characters and dialogue. But, I love non-linear stories! I hope perhaps you can find one less creepy for me in the future. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I will Jackie 😉 I tend to rad a lot of darker titles right now and find it is expected to encounter some “non-believable” characters. Well to an extent. I think the age not fully corresponding with the dialog properly was my biggest hang up. Haha, I could see you really tearing into this one for that 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I honestly wouldn’t have checked this out if I had seen that cover. Pretty cool that it turned out to be somewhat pretty interesting though. The whole Reddit before getting the Kickstarter boost story was a really interesting bit. Nice balanced pros and cons review! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The coolest thing is that my daughter loves creepypasta (are you familiar?) and this was one of the series she really enjoyed. She was very excited when she saw that I found this novel. So I think she will be reading. I love discussing books with her on the rare occasion that we share interest 😉 When I found out she was enjoying Fahrenheit 451, I spent days driving her nuts with discussion haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve heard about them, but I never knew they were called creepypastas though. 😀 I never really found myself digging the web to find more stories though. They do sound pretty cool though. It’s like… an adult version of Goosebumps + Freaky Stories (the TV show). 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds really interesting. The pros sound like they outweigh the cons, and the premise is exciting and the origin of the story is so inspiring. I think im gonna have to check it out! Nice review

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooo this sounds different and I like different, particularly in regards to horror 🙂 It sounds like something I’d enjoy, particularly if it has ‘sinister’ and ‘disquieting’ moments. I said this in a previous horror review of mine, but I think those moments, the ones which cause a shiver to trickle down your spine, are far more effective than in-your-face horror. They stay with you long after you’ve read the final page!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Since this started out as a series of short stories, did that effect the flow of the story at all?

    “The dialog and behavior were unconvincing at times because they didn’t seem to coincide well with the narrator’s age at that moment”

    Ahhhh that is a huge pet peeve of mine 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huge pet peeve with me at all, but fortunately the good outweighed the bad here. They were a series, but presented as one story broken into segments, so the end result of the novel was very cohesive. After talking with my daughter, I believe a lot of creepy pasta is presented this way. Similar to podcasts? This is the only one I know of that has been turned to novel though. 🙂

      Like

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