- Use promo code PRIMEBOOKS18 to save $5.00 when you spend $20.00 or more on Books offered by Amazon.com. Enter code PRIMEBOOKS18 at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
Penpal Paperback – July 11, 2012
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
From the Back Cover
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The major theme of this book is how our innocence as children protects us (more specifically our memories) from how dark and disturbing our pasts may have really been. The story is told from the author's (Dathan Auerbach) point of view, recalling memories from when he was a young boy. We are given each piece in a non-chronological order, a detail I liked a lot.
This book - on several different occasions - made my skin crawl. I'm not easily spooked, but while reading parts of this book, certain realizations were sinking in as they were occurring (realizations to the reader, not to the subject) and when you begin to realize things Dathan doesn't (by reading the book as an adult, where narration is told by a child) you'll begin to feel your heart sink in your chest. This feeling is especially true if you had a similar childhood to the narrator, such as, being middle class, living in a suburb, and spending most of your childhood outside playing in the woods/area surrounding your house. (*raises hand*)
PENPAL got pretty good ratings on Amazon (4.5 stars) and did slightly less well on Goodreads (3.88 stars). I will say that I did not read any reviews before picking up the book because I trusted my coworker on his suggestion and the book was so cheap (Kindle version is $4.99!) It wasn't until I planned on writing a review for this that I took a look at what people had to say about the book.
One of the biggest problems readers had with Penpal was the quality of Auerbach's writing. Which, I will also admit, it's not stellar. I do agree with others that it reads like a reddit post cut into chapters. With that being said though, I actually liked that the book was written this way. It might be because the book feels more realistic, like someone having a conversation with you, as opposed to a book being narrated by a third party. Also, while others called this 'rambling' (Auerbach's sentence and paragraph style) I thought it added to the effect of a man recalling memories. When a person is remembering something - like their creepy, hair raising childhood - it doesn't come out in a perfect chronological order. In fact, I'm very happy with the way the book was written.
Hands down, one of the best books I've ever read. I read it in one sitting, couldn't pull myself away from it, and was so struck by the time I was done that I didn't quite know what to do with myself afterwards. I desperately hope that Auerbach writes more, because this book absolutely blew my mind. It's painful, in a sick sad aching way, at times. It's terrifying with a kind of silent solidarity that I've never really seen elsewhere. There's a strange hazy, almost dreamlike quality to so much of it that the nostalgia feels entirely too real, and you can nearly smell the dead summer air, the leaves, the rot.
I don't know that I will be able to shake the feeling left behind from reading this book for a while to come.
Perhaps some of the feeling of being unsettled is due to the fact that I relate a great deal to the protagonist laying out the story. As a child I had few friends, when I had any, and a great deal of that youth was spent wandering aimlessly through the woods here in the Black Hills of South Dakota...either by myself or with one or another of the small number of friends I was somehow fortunate enough to make. Much like the child in Penpal, I filled the forest with sinister things in my own imagination, especially in the darkness as night approached. Needless to say, I felt a sort of kinship with the young boy in this book, and that made the events of the narrative that much more difficult to shake.
Even without that sort of association, the story would be a spooky one though for anyone, I think.
During Kindergarten, the boy's class has a project. They were to write a brief letter to accompany a helium-filled balloon requesting a letter and a photo. As the letters begin coming back as response, our protagonist finally receives a single Polaroid photo without any explanation. More letters come in and are ultimately ignored until months later when it is discovered that he is in many of the pictures that his new penpal is sending...and that is really just the beginning.
As a parent and as a former boy who spent his days and nights exploring the woods near home, this is without a doubt one of the most uncomfortable books I have had the pleasure of reading. I am torn between hoping that Dathan Auerbach has more books to come and half-heartedly wanting him to call it quits after a novel that would be challenging to top.
Most recent customer reviews
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.Read more