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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  20,516 ratings  ·  2,819 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
Paperback, 243 pages
Published June 2012 by 1000Vultures
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Mande Peer Anything by CK Walker, Elias Witherow, Aaron Shotwell, Vincent Vena Cava, Slimebeast, IPostAtMidnight

Penpal was originally an r/nosleep creepypasta re…more
Anything by CK Walker, Elias Witherow, Aaron Shotwell, Vincent Vena Cava, Slimebeast, IPostAtMidnight

Penpal was originally an r/nosleep creepypasta released in sections by 1000Vultures. In my opinion, when creepypasta authors are good at what they do, they're better than 90% of horror novelists. They pack a hell of a punch so it's not odd at all that you'd be taken in by this writing style.(less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,516 ratings  ·  2,819 reviews

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Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book - the gentle pace of the story well told, combined with a serious creepiness that made my skin crawl, is unique. Reminds me that realistic suspense / horror is both most bothersome, and most enjoyable.
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is like reading a exceedingly long reddit post. That's because it started as one. Most of this author's fans 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 bee ...more
Ahhhhh, this book was so unique and so CREEPY. I loved how this story is basically 6 chapters of different creepy childhood memories that all connect in a really interesting way. This book had NO RIGHT being this creepy, the end of every chapter gave me goosebumps everywhere and genuinely some of the chapters really freaked me out. I loved this, definitely a new favorite and one I can see myself rereading in the future.

Here's the vlog where I read it: https://youtu.be/6nxHw18djXg
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mike F
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Sadie Hartmann
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
(4.5 stars)
Wow. So this book, PenPal is one of those books that when you mention it among bookworms, people either really loved it or they really hated it.
I'm in the "really loved it" camp.
If I had to hedge a bet, I'd say that the reason people might not get on with this story is because of the non linear format. There's not a story that starts right "here" and takes you through to the "end".
It's basically a series of stories that are connected and involve all the same characters but the timelin
Aaron Wittwer
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved the first half and understand why this has a cult following. Once I got about halfway through it started to become confusing (in a bad way). Overall, very creepy but I think I would have enjoyed this more had I just read it in it's initial format on reddit.

Link to my video review:
Courtney Wells
Well, I wanted to like this - I did. It's an interesting story with some genuinely creepy moments but the execution left a lot to be desired.

1) All the reminiscing and waxing philosophical really bogs down the action and suspense.

2) Only a handful of interesting and scary things happen but it takes so long to get to the point because everything is padded with prose.

3) It seems like another half-dozen things could have happened to truly make the story dynamic and chilling. As it was everything
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wrote a review of this yesterday that I wanted to let simmer a bit before posting. Of course, now I can’t find it on my computer & I’m sure it was totally much more brilliant than this attempt is, but I’m so tired of thinking about my own thoughts, I’m putting this up just to get it over with.

Being a mother makes for some utterly terrifying & panic-attack inducing moments while reading this, but sadly it also makes some of it deeply ridiculous. The Balloon Project = not for my kid, thanks. As
Johann (jobis89)
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
”How far can you go into the woods?”

A man investigates the seemingly unrelated unusual, tragic, and horrific events of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them.

What a strange reading experience I had with this one. As I was reading it I was constantly questioning whether I was actually enjoying it? “Is this it? Where’s the creepiness?” But then during the last quarter or so, when everything started coming together and crazy things were revealed, I started to fully appreciate the cr
Pam G
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 18, 2022 added it
so unsettling
will read anything else this author writes
Jan 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Stephen Williamson
Feb 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 19, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, own
3.5 stars? I think that's right. Not every moment of this boy's past seemed necessary at the time, but most of the reasoning is there at the end. Hang in there until then. ...more
Jen - The Tolkien Gal
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I would have given a lower rating if it weren't for the tension and fear this book instilled in me.

The book follows the story of a young boy who grows up in a small town. Each chapter describes an event in his life. The events are disconnected and are placed in an almost random order, each ending on a climax. The further into the book you are, the more you are able to place the events in sequence and realise that something horrific has been stalking the main character.

This book deserves merit fo
Heather V  ~The Other Heather~
Maybe it's a North American thing, or a generational thing, or...something...but here's what I believe makes PENPAL so masterful at getting under a reader's skin: It could've been your childhood in these pages.

Take mine, for example. A Canadian child of the '80s who grew up in Toronto, firmly and happily middle class. An only child, close to her mother, who loved her pets and had a tough start in kindergarten (due in part to a few relocations of my father's job) so was very attached to the few
daniela weber
Nov 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
what had started
surreptitiously vague
somehow got creepier
as a quicksand danger
tinted every page. ♡
Nov 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the creepiest stories I've read in a while. ...more
Elle G. Reads
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Release Date: June 2012
Genre: Horror
Actual Rating: 4 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it is downright creepy. You get a keen sense of foreboding while reading it and it actually sends chills down the spine. On the other hand, the execution of the story is slow and the ending feels... like we didn't get enough (or rather ANY) reason for why things happened. I wanted answers. Did I get any? Nope. So that's very frustrating for me as a reader. I feel like I invest
YEP, I LEGIT FEEL LIKE VOMITING RIGHT NOW. This book gave me Megan is missing vibes.
Penpal apparently started life as a series of creepypasta posts on Reddit. Through chapters that skip back and forth in time, it tells the story of a boy who’s seemingly stalked throughout his life. The writing occasionally betrays its origins: the dialogue ranges from average to awful, and many sections feel over-described to pad out the narrative, a typical weakness of the from (i.e. serialised fiction posted online). The early chapters are the strongest, with a good sense of place and an enga ...more
Jessii Vee
Sep 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing
“How far can you walk into the woods?”

This book deeply affected me. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, scream, clap or throw the book across the room when I was finished it.

This book was so beautiful and haunting at the same time, I’m not sure that it will ever leave my mind. It also wasn’t at all what I expected…and I won’t say much more than that so I don’t spoil it for any potential readers. It’s best to go into this book completely blind for it to be the most impactful. Don’t look up anythin
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Josh Nix
Jun 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is heinously bad. It's so mechanically written. There is no passion in the prose, the characters are so lifeless, the twists are so predictable. It's not a good story, either. So many parts of it are uninteresting and unnecessary. When I was 2/3 of the way through this story, I still didn't even know what the plot was.

I'm honestly hesitant to even call this a horror novel. It's so boring and tame and, well, mechanical. We get it, Dathan Auerbach, you have and know how to use a thesauru
Jul 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing
"Our minds work hard to avoid dissonance - if we hold a belief strongly enough, our minds will forcefully reject conflicting evidence so that we can maintain the integrity of our understanding of the world."

Wow, this one is dark and intense! Each chapter is absorbing and eerie and you truly come to worry what may happen to these characters. I devoured it in two sittings because I just HAD to know. Highly recommend for horror lovers, just watch out for that ending... it's a doozy!
Dani N
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 interr
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-suspense
First things first: I'm a huge fan of r/nosleep. There's stories I read there years ago that still haunt me to this day, while there are "professionally" published horror books that were laughably bad.

Penpal is amongst the most infamous stories in all the "What's the one creepypasta that fucked you up the most" threads, and I was very excited to see it was turned into a book; "Oh neat, I don't have to click on post after post (sometimes, there's no links to previous/ next chapters in a multi ch
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DATHAN AUERBACH was born in the southern U.S. and has lived there for most of his life. In 2011, he began posting a series of stories to a forum dedicated to horror. After a Kickstarter campaign that raised over 1000% of its goal, he was able to release the revised and expanded versions of his story as the novel Penpal.

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  With more than 5.7 million votes cast and counted, the 14th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards are now official. Launched in 2009,...
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“We want so badly to be happy – to live the kinds of lives that we always hoped we’d live – that we give gifts to ourselves by remembering things not as they were, but as we wish they were.” 29 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.” 22 likes
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