Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

I’m not sure how many people know this, but I’m currently going through a top 50 best horror book list.  I have seen the book Penpal on many horror book lists but refused to read it because it seemed childish (yes I judged the book based off the cover - bad Shannon).  Since this book is on the top 50 best horror book list, I decided that I would read it and see what all the fuss was about.  Verdict? This book is absolutely terrifying.  

I wish I could put in my usual humor and wit, but I’m not even sure I can.  I finished reading this book today at around 3pm and it left me with chills that went straight through my bones.  I was so freaked out that I actually had to call a friend and have her talk to me about something happy while I wrapped my head around what I just read.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

“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.” 

This book is a very short book (at least in my eyes), only being 252 pages.  When I first started reading the book I wasn’t totally drawn into it, considering I had just read The Exorcist which rocked my socks off.  As I continued to read the book, I slowly got more drawn in - the writer, Dathan, does a great job of keeping everything vague, but not to the point of making you lose interest but to the point of drawing you in.  About 80 pages in, I was completely hooked.  Granted I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I was hooked nonetheless.  

Normally I would warn everyone about a spoiler, but in this case, I’m not going to spoil anything.  This book terrified me because there are parts of my childhood that I can’t remember.  I have about three years of which I have no idea what went on in my life - as an adult I’ve thought about trying to figure out what happened in those three years but at the end of the day I’ve decided that some things are better left in the dark.  After reading this book - I know that it’s sometimes better to not pursue anything and move on with your life.

For you horror fans out there - I definitely recommend this book.  It’s not gory and there are no supernatural monsters - but it still gets into your psyche.  It’s written very simply since you are essentially looking through the eyes of a child.  I didn’t think I would ever give a book a 5 skulls out of 5 skulls - but this one deserves it.  This is a book that will make you question a lot of things and also make you remember that sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones that are human hiding behind dark shadows.  One of the best horror books I’ve read and one of the few that I will never read again.