Most of us are familiar with Slender Man, right? The whole creepypasta fanfic writing and fanart phenomenon gone viral, that some people took way too seriously? If you need a little brushing up on your Slender Man lore, there’s a comprehensive piece in the Washington Post from 2016.
This is my first foray into actual Slender Man writing – most of what I know about the whole business is hearsay from social media – so I was interested in diving in and seeing what the big deal was about. A teen named Matt Barker is kind of an outcast, kind of a loner. He’s in therapy, and his therapist suggests he keep a journal. Matt’s journal entries make up a large part of the Slender Man story, enhanced by clips of newspaper articles, police interviews, online forums, and text conversations. Matt and his schoolmates are a largely well-off group of white kids, living in New York City, where they attend a a prestigious private school. When Matt’s best friend, Lauren, disappears, it sets off a series of nightmares where Matt dreams of trees, sky, and something sinister, just waiting for him. He has to decide whether or not to take matters into his own hands and find Lauren before Slender Man can hurt her.
A line in the book says that the best Slender Man fiction doesn’t actually star Slender Man, but rather uses his background presence to strike fear into readers. I don’t feel like this story achieved that. It had its creepy moments, and was a quick read, but ultimately, fell flat for me. It was on the verge of something more: more psychological, more insidious, but never really got there. Maybe more devoted Slender Man readers will appreciate this one; I want to check with the teens in my library and take the temperature of the group before I decide I was just the wrong audience for this one.