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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,584 ratings  ·  275 reviews
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 occurr...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published June 2012 by 1000Vultures (first published January 1st 2012)
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This is like reading a exceedingly long reddit post. That's because it started as one. Most of this author's fan are redditors and I guess they think it merits five stars because they're used to reading reddit comments all day and yes, as a reddit comment it is exceptional but as a book it is barely readable. It rambles endlessly. For instance it shouldn't take a whole page to describe two ten year olds playing rock paper scissors. That deserves two or three sentences at best. It could have been...more
Pam Grimes
I read Penpal in 100 degree weather and still got chills, now that's great storytelling! Dathan grabs the reader's attention with the tenacity of a dog in possession of a juicy bone and doesn't let go until the final climax. Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger that leaves the reader with no choice but to turn the next page. Bravo Mr. Auerbach, can't wait for your next novel! I am recommending this book to all of my friends.
Aug 22, 2012 Dulcetpurr rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who play slender, people looking for a good halloween read
I finished this book in two days, and when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it. I stayed up until midnight last night just to finish it, and then when I was done, I did something I haven't done in decades...I left a lamp on when I went to sleep. I'm 31 years old and I'm not proud of this. This book scared me in ways that I can barely describe. I can only say that I don't think a book has ever made my heart pound before, and this one did...several times.

This book was very nostalgic for me...more
An amazing and powerful little story of memory, anguish, lies and friendship told from the perspective of a man recalling events in his childhood from his own memory and from information discovered years later from his mother. The story builds from a seemingly simple elementary school project to the events that unfold over time and finishes with a revelation that is guaranteed to shake you to your core. I don't want to give too much away to avoid ruining the story but it's a tale that you won't...more
This book was my borrowed book for the month from Amazon Prime. I selected it because it was a highly reviewed horror book, and i am a huge horror fan. i liked the premise and that it was kickstarter-funded, and i kept reading that it was chilling and horrific, so. right up my alley!

i started it at lunch and finished it after dinner. it's not a long or difficult read, and at one point i kind of wanted to stop -- not because it wasn't a good book, but because it was.

i watch a lot of horror, rea...more
Mike F
After reading Penpal, I really can’t understand the high ratings or the glowing reviews.

The book is written with a formality of language that is unnatural. It seems that words are often used in a manner to attempt to impress the reader more than clearly or fluidly relay storyline. It reminded me of something that might have been written by a member of a high school gifted and talented program to impress the teacher more than a readable work of fiction.

The story. Think along the lines of one long...more
Aaron Wittwer
There is a ridiculous amount of hype around this book. Just look on amazon. There are 216 five star reviews right now and only 21 one/two star reviews. Reviewers fawn over how disturbingly horrifying the story is. How original it is. The gut-wrenching ending. Etc. My interest was piqued. I didn't know about the backstory of the book. How it evolved from Reddit, and got funded on kickstarter, and whatnot, but I guess that makes a lot of sense.

There is a creepy story in here. Most chapters end wit...more
I made the mistake of buying into the hype of almost 100% 5 star reviews on Amazon, knowing full well that the book started as a Reddit Thread and that those reviews were probably the full-throated support of the community. I really wanted to like it, but this isn't a novel; it's glorified forum posts. The story is all "Telling" to the point where nobody seems to have any real personality. The structure was interesting, but formulaic (long semi-creepy story, twist ending, repeat in next section)...more
John Jilwan
Great read, a very sad and terrifying story. Unlike a lot of works of horror that focus endlessly on bloodshed and pointless murder, this one takes on a more classical perspective of character development by focusing on a few characters, and watching everything they thought they knew come crumbling down on them and knowing that they will never be safe. I first read this as on the nosleep community of reddit, and am currently rereading it as the book. I have no qualms paying a bit of money to sup...more
Jesse Carrasco
I was a big fan of the original series of stories when someone pointed me to the reddit site that contained them. The stories were sufficiently creepy and left you with a cliffhanger ending that made you want to move on to he next one. When I was told the stories would be expanded out into a novel format I stopped reading them (had 2 stories left) and decided to read the novel instead. I should have read the short stories instead. In the short story format, the overall story was very creepy. In...more
Effy Weasley
'how far can you go into the woods?'

amazing, simply amazing... i didn't really know what the book was about when i bought it, i have only read 'footsteps' and 'balloons' on reddit adn after those two stories i decided that it was so good that i had to have in some sort of physical form. and i don't regret it, i definitely got my money's worth.

the story is chilling - i read it outside in bright sunshine and i still got chills down my spine. the last 150 pages i read in a couple of hours, unable...more
Stephen Williamson
It really saddens me when I don't like a book, but can see a lot of potential in it. Penpal is just such a book.

The underlying story in the book is really interesting, but the execution is very weak. The story really suffers because of the author's decision to tell it non-chronologically. The closest thing to a climax happens way too early in the book. The language and writing style isn't particularly great, and a lot of the dialogue just doesn't feel genuine at all.

There are some gaping plot ho...more
Craig Allen
Overall I enjoyed this very creepy read. I had a few friends that REALLY hyped this one to me, so my expectations were a little too high I think. I kept expecting this masterpiece, but instead it was just a pretty good story. There were LOTS of details that seemed to be kind of pointless (kids exploring in the woods, to the point I was just like "DO SOMETHING!") but then something really creepy would happen to hold my interest. There were two very awesome descriptive death scenes that I had to r...more
I read this book because my almost-15-year-old recommended it. The story behind its publication is almost as interesting as the story. The book began as an online posting in a forum on, where it was wildly popular. Everyone encouraged the author to raise funds to publish the book through, an online tool to raise money through crowd funding, and within hours he had the funds to publish the book himself. The book now has a strong sales rating on amazon (#2,400 sales rank...more
Auerbach raised over $4,000 on Kickstarter to fund this self-published novel, and most of that money obviously went into buying good reviews. With help from the reddit community NoSleep further 'five star' reviews have come pouring in for a book that deserves only one. This would have been an excellent short story, really, but by stretching out and watering down the core events with naive and hackneyed passages, it's a terrible book, which in some respects makes it a great novel for any aspiring...more
I've been spending a lot of time on /nosleep lately and decided to buy this book instead of reading the stories there. I read the entire thing yesterday evening because I just couldn't put it down. I had to know what was going to happen next, and I really had no idea what to expect.

Aside from a few minor errors, it's very well-written, and the story is heart-wrenching. My son is almost 5, and it certainly hits that parental fear. I loved the fact that it's told non-chronologically, and we know o...more
Jackie George
I started reading these stories on /nosleep, and they sufficiently creeped me out. The pacing and storytelling was perfect, and the mystery of the whole story kept me flipping through each short story.

When I saw it was a novel (and on Amazon Prime's free lending library) I went ahead and borrowed it to read the 'extended content'. I was pretty disappointed, because there wasn't much that was extended. The story was pretty much the same, with some more added fluff and pretty writing added to make...more
Wow. I just really don't know what else to say about this book. This was probably the most unexpected book I've ever read. By that I mean, I thought it was going to be just some creepy stalker mystery. Even halfway in that's what it was, frightening, but I had no idea that it would turn out to be SO MUCH MORE.

All I know is that I truly don't understand the negative reviews for this book. Maybe people that spend a lot of time on reddit just automatically think something "seems like a long reddit...more
As other reviewers have said, this is a good first attempt at a novel. Structurally (told as a series of flashbacks) it's sound and the structure does a lot to enhance the creepiness of the story. (Note: I said "creepiness" not horror. The story is creepy at best, but not shocking enough to deliver any horror.)

There were a lot of problems with the book. Kids selling snow cones from their little stand for $1.00 each? And at the end of the day, they only had dollar bills so had to "rock, paper, sc...more
I dont use reddit, never have, probably never will. I found this book as a recommendation on amazon and on goodreads and bought it based on the blurb and the fact that I enjoy indie and horror fiction.

You know what... haters gonna hate. I thought this was a really great story and it was really well written. I stayed up reading it until my eyes drooped and then kept reading the next morning until I finished it.

It was unsettling, captivating, suspenseful and also strangely beautiful. Anyone who h...more
Kenzie Jennings
I was not familiar with the whole Reddit publication and fanbase this particular piece had amassed. I saw this in my recommendation list, and I thought I'd give the actual novel a go since the ratings were stellar. Penpal has great possibility -- the mystery behind the missing pieces of the narrator's life is certainly intriguing. It's somewhat predictable in places -- actual fans of horror writing will immediately recognize the neogothicism in it (the family with many secrets), but there's no g...more
Mar 29, 2013 Wwiiaman rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone who likes "Closed door" scares rather than "Open door"
You know when a book is so intense that sometimes you just need to turn it down, and recuperate before picking it up a couple seconds later?

And you know when a book just makes you experience that "Click" moment. When all the pieces fit together and with that comes a totally unexpected side to the story?

Penpal pulls both of those off absolutely beautifully on a regular basis! Many times I would lose myself in its eeriness. At the end, I actually nearly cried (And I don't cry very often to books)....more
A potentially great creepy story hidden beneath a steaming pile of deuce. The writing is bad. Like, really bad.

The author attempts to use nonlinear progression to tell the story, which can be incredibly effective if it is well-executed. In this case, though, it creates a muddled mess of language that relies on a formulaic chapter structure to get the point across. Each chapter rambles on unnecessarily, and concludes with a twist of some sort. This is gimmicky, and it loses any potential effecti...more
This book was recommended to me because I tend to like the creepy and macabre stories. I didn't read any reviews or even the plot line before picking this book up, so I went into it blindly. It's a story about a young boy and his correspondences with his "penpal" over the period of several years. It was fantastic - it was a little scary and frightening at times, bizarre, and it came together in a way that I could feel content with the ending. It was just so strange and when I finished reading it...more
Jacqueline Roach
I know this book has some very real fundamental editing/writing issues, but the story was so original and genuinely scary, that I feel compelled to give it a higher rating.

I'm a huge horror fan, and that being said, it's very difficult to find books out there that actually scare me and have a pretty tight ending. The last book to do this was King's "The Shining," and that was 11 years ago. There is just this claustrophobic feeling within Penpal- something that the characters just can't escape f...more
Janette Fleming
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 ha...more
Eric Hinrichsen Jr.
I'm a frequent /r/nosleep reader when I'm on my midnight shifts as a security guard. Being that it's the school year, however, means I usually miss out on the creepy stories. When I saw that one of the frequent contributors had created a Kindle version of the stories, I decided to support the author (without having read anything) and purchase the book.

Long story short: it was okay. The entire time I was reading this, the writing style reminded me of something you'd see from a writing class: very...more
Cesar Ibarra
I have to admit, I don’t read two many mystery books, but Pen Pal isn’t just any mystery book. It’s a book that leaves you feeling so many different emotions, you can’t tell what the f*** you’re reading. In Pen Pal, a man tries to recover the secrets of his dark childhood in six different stories that; Footsteps, Balloons, Boxes, Maps, Screens and Friends. Each story tells a different part of our main character’s life and how super f***ed up it was. Each story also contains a piece of a crazy f*...more
Not only genuinely scary, but well-written, a rare combination for what started off as, essentially, creepypasta. Here, there won't be obvious and over-the-top monsters of the supernatural sort, only ones that we face daily and don't know about. More often had it been my imagination than anything explicitly described in Penpal that threatened to deplete my closet of undergarments. The non-chronological aspect of it, rather than the opposite that in the hands of a lesser writer could've easily be...more
Taylor W
This book is a beautiful masterpiece. Every single part of the story when it was posted on /nosleep intertwines perfectly, referring back to previous parts and making connections. All the references were, in my mind, absolutely perfect.

The main problem that I had with the novel is that there is quite a bit of fluff that isn't too necessary for story progression, but if it wasn't there, the story would be far too short, so it's a bit of a flat line for me on that subject.

There is quite a few emot...more
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Club 42: Dathan Auerbach 10 36 Feb 21, 2013 11:12AM  
  • Incarnate
  • Naomi's Room
  • The Cipher
  • The Ritual
  • White is for Witching
  • Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
  • The Wolfen
  • Piercing
  • The Great God Pan
  • The Store
  • Wake the Wicked
  • The Croning
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • The October Country
  • In Silent Graves
  • Kin
  • This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It
  • Willy

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“Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself. – Harlan Ellison” 2 likes
“Truth to tell, at any point in our lives we’ve forgotten more than we know about our own history. The world moves on, and so do we, and what was once important fades away.” 0 likes
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