Book Review: Slender Man by Anonymous
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Slender Man by Anonymous
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Harper Voyager (October 23, 2018)
Length: 336 pages
Author Information: N/A
The origin of Slender Man as a creepypasta internet meme that gained traction on an online forum before becoming viral and exploding into a worldwide phenomenon has always fascinated me. It’s perhaps one of the best modern examples of how a legend or myth might come to life, its genesis and spread happening in real time for all to observe, especially following a series of violent related incidents widely covered by the media. The surreal nature of this now iconic horror figure is what immediately drew me to this book, simply titled Slender Man by an author whom, in a very meta touch, has been kept anonymous, which should clue you in as to the style and mood of story you’re in for…
In basic terms, Slender Man is an epistolary novel comprised of journal entries, emails, text messages, voice transcripts, and other forms of documentation surrounding the life of high school student Matt Barker, who is on a mission to discover the truth of what happened to his friend and classmate Lauren Bailey. The popular teen girl from Riley, an elite New York City high school, went out one night and never returned. Within hours, rumors were flying all over Riley speculating on her whereabouts, though secretly, Matt knows Lauren well enough to know the majority of them have no basis in fact. While the two teens never ran in the same circles at school, they have maintained a close friendship that neither of them advertised publicly, keeping most their correspondence through texts. Lauren had an obsession with dark subjects that, as far as Matt knew, he was the only one she ever shared with, sending with him gruesome stories and pictures that she found online that she thought were funny or interesting.
After days go by with no headway on the police investigation into the disappearance, Matt decides to take matters into his own hands, uncovering a series of strange photoshopped images on Lauren’s cloud drive, proving irrefutably that she was drawn to the legend of Slender Man. Given how the stories go—that any attention given to Slender Man is in fact a foolhardy way to summon the creature or draw its notice—Matt believes his friend is in serious danger, and the terrifying dreams he has almost nightly seem to confirm his bad feelings.
Due to its format, I suspect Slender Man will not be a book for everybody, and if you have struggled with epistolary novels in the past, it’s possible you may run into similar issues with this one. The style itself is limiting in certain situations, especially when the story calls for descriptive action. Often you end up with awkward moments where the character resorts to oral dictation and info-dumping, ludicrously stating out everything he/she is doing, and we have a few instances of this here where the forced narrative pulled me out of the immersion. One other thing to note is that the book is very Young Adult-oriented—which may end up being a disappointment to those who were hoping for a good scare out of this. Slender Man is at times deeply atmospheric and plays with your mind a bit, but for a horror novel, I did not find it scary or even that creepy. The characters’ personalities also fit in with the overall YA tone of the story, so expect a certain level of teen angst and other genre clichés like disdainful attitudes towards healthcare workers and law enforcement (or just adults in general).
Despite these caveats, I did have a good time reading the book. While the epistolary style does not always lend itself well to character development, I thought the author did a good job painting Matt Barker as a convincing and sympathetic figure, due to the fact his journal entries make up the bulk of the novel. Matt’s emotional state is strongly felt in these entries; we get a good depiction of his confusion, the genuine concern for Lauren, as well as the crushing sense of helplessness and fear as he realizes what he must do to save her. I also enjoyed the creative use of documentation to tell the story, not to mention the sheer variety of sources ranging from newspaper clippings to the Riley school letters sent out to faculty and parents, and even snippets from Whatsapp group chats and Reddit discussion forums. I thought they were a nice touch to give the situation a more “authentic” feel, and the eclectic mix also made this a super quick and addictive read.
All too soon, the book was over, and honestly, if I have one complaint about the ending, it’s that it felt rushed and the conclusion was left a little too open. But for a story of this nature about Slender Man, perhaps there was no other way around this issue. The character became a horror phenomenon precisely because of the mystery and ambiguity surrounding its motives, and the novel’s ending seems to reflect this limitless potential for speculation and the role of reader imagination. If you don’t mind the vagueness, then you’ll probably enjoy the enigma, and certainly the unknowns added greatly to the general atmosphere of the story, which was top-notch and was a counterpoint to some of the book’s minor weaknesses. Overall a fast and fun read if you’re looking for a bit of mood reading for the spooky season!