Penpal | Dathan Auerbach | Book Review

All over the internet, I keep seeing Penpal being praised as one of the scariest and most underrated books ever.

When horror movies try to claim a title like this, or when the previews say things like, “…scarier than The Exorcist!” I can’t help but get a little bit excited inside, only to ultimately end up disappointed. Every. Damn. Time.

But I am new to the book community! I am new to reading and reviewing horror novels. And to be honest, so far, I think I am easily impressed! However, this was the first book I have read so far with such high standards to live up to.

So, I bet you’re wondering, did it live up to the expectations?


How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a young man investigates his memories of seemingly unrelated strange, unsettling, tragic, and terrifying moments of his youth in order to finally put all of the pieces together.

It’s the Strangest Thing…

Everywhere you look for this book, the summary is extremely vague. The back of the book, Goodreads, Google, even my blog… They’re all excluding any real detail and do not give you any understanding of the book’s plot!

And I hate to say it, but there’s really no way to explain this story or the plot to you.

When I was finished reading the book I was sort of excited about it, so my partner asked me to summarize it for him. I began explaining what the plot was and how the story builds in this crazy way, but as I was saying it out loud I realized that it made no sense! (Not to mention the look he was giving me.)

This went on for some time, and I tried to give him the most straight forward explanation possible, and he said, “I just don’t get it.”

I am afraid, unless you read the book, it is sort of impossible to “get.” It can’t be explained without sounding like a complete jumbled mess, which does the book no justice.

Sort of fun, isn’t it? But at the same time, how do you know if you’ll be interested in it or not?

Let me help with that.

My Review

Damn. This book really builds on itself.

Each chapter has you wondering how it will play into the overall story, because you’re going through all of these seemingly unconnected memories and events of our main character. There were a couple moments when I even thought to myself, “this is a lot of detail,” only to have my mind blown when those details actually came back later and were crucial to the story line and/or climax.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a ten to twelver; meaning any less sleep than ten hours and I am a force to be reckoned with.

Friend, I actually sacrificed my sleep to continue reading this. That’s two nights of f*cked up sleep! It was that important for me to continue reading, and in the end I’d say that it was worth it.

Penpal was unlike any other horror story I have ever read or seen. It was unique, refreshing, and creepy as hell. There were a few moments that my heart was pounding out of my chest and my eyes were flying across the page, trying to absorb each word as fast as possible. Desperate to know what was happening.

There were also moments where I had to re-read a paragraph a few times to make sure this was really what was happening, because it was just so creepy and weird.

This book is made up of many moments that I can only describe as chilling.

I also think it’s important to mention that I loved the two main characters! I felt like their young adolescent boy banter was charming, realistic, and super funny. Yes, I am aware that I know nothing about what it’s like to be a young boy, but I was totally convinced that it was an authentic experience.

The ending left me reeling. It left me thinking. I sat there for a while after finishing the book, just to make sure I was putting all the pieces together properly in my head.  I appreciated how creepy and thought provoking it was. I also like that the book assumed the reader was smart enough to put the pieces together, rather than feel the need to spell it all out entirely.

My Rating: ★★★★★

I will not say it is one of the “scariest” books ever, I just can’t do that. After it was over, I wasn’t looking in the corners or fearfully running up the steps at the end of the night after I hit the lights. However, it was good… It was very good for what it was.

I am glad that all of the descriptions were vague. I am thankful that I had no idea what the contents were. I honestly think that knowing nothing about the story helped keep my expectations reasonable, which is why the “hype” surrounding this book had little to no effect on my experience with it.

Keep your expectations reasonable and grab a copy of this book ASAP.

I am dying to hear your thoughts on this!



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