Penpal by Dathan Auerbach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book because I'd heard several of the stories on CreepsMcPasta, and they stood out from the other creepypasta I'd listened to. The stories were disturbing and didn't rely on gore to generate fear. They relied on the listener's imagination.
In this collection, the author has expanded on his original narratives and added some more material to bring the overall story arc to a conclusion. Expanding the previous stories wasn't a good idea; it consisted of adding meaningless text that turned a group of slightly rambling childhood tales into ones that wandered too far afield. Execution can be learned with practice, though; I still wanted to see where the author took things.
The emotional impact these stories have stem from reading the child's view of the incidents that happen to him, his friends, and his pet, but filtering them through an adult perspective. The childhood the unnamed character has the sort of details you would see in any child's life, at least one of an earlier generation. Today's parents wouldn't let their children wander as far afield as our young hero, but I remember having those freedoms myself... perhaps that's why this story worked for me. The kid could have easily been a child of the 1970s or 80s, which the use of Polaroids seemed to imply. The type of phones he and his friends used as teenagers, though, would be a little ahead of their time in that case.
So, we have a collection of stalkerish memories, presented in nonchronological order, with important details left out. Very much like memories in real life. Even with the big reveal at the end, there are still questions the reader, and the character, have. But it works; the reader is left with disturbing emotions. Perhaps it works because the details are missing, and, once again, it is up to the reader's imagination to fill them in.
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