If you’re a literary thrill-seeker like me, you know that good, suspenseful books are hard to come by. Every so often, after lots of digging, you come across that one book that restores your faith in good horror writing, that there is, in fact, hope in a genre filled with half-assed detective stories and tales of broken secretive marriages. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach does all that and more, sating all of your creepy cravings.
This story first surfaced on Reddit, and was soon polished and printed as a novel in its own right. The book is a (probably fictional) first hand account of Dathan’s strange childhood, which became twisted after his kindergarten class releases balloons in search of random pen pals. What follows is one of the most suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat thrillers that has you guessing at every turn (mostly because Dathan keeps putting himself in danger) as well as puts you front and center for the dissolution of not only a family, but also a life.
While some have complained that it just reads like a very long creepypasta, the novel does one thing most creepypastas has trouble getting right — the atmosphere. Auerbach has a way of drawing your attention, only telling you what’s important at the appropriate times, making it a quick read at only 250 pages. Honestly, all he needs is those 250 to have you hooked on this story, and with a conclusive (albeit gruesome) ending, it does what every thriller should — leave you in awe. If you’re on the hunt of a beach read that won’t put you to sleep, this is the one book I advise you give a shot.