Bad Man

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

2.5 ⭐️
cw: child abduction, abuse, fat-shaming, racism/slurs
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

I’ve been leaning into a lot of spooky reads recently and was very excited at the concept of reading a novel written by someone who was so well-known on r/NoSleep. I was a little worried about someone who was used to shorter fiction writing a novel (not that I know much about Dathan’s writing history besides the blurb on Goodreads). Unfortunately, I do think that the length got the best of him in this one.

The start of the book was nothing short of incredible. The more I read, the more I forgot how strongly it had started, so I’m grateful to past me for making note of that. Dathan is clearly a master of crafting atmospheric environments and did a wonderful job of setting up the story. I almost missed by stop on the train and at one point, while reading on my lunch break, I got spooked by someone walking by my desk in broad daylight.

It began to lose me around the 50% mark. I felt like the story was dragging and I didn’t really feel invested in seeing what would happen next. In fact, I’m not sure I would’ve finished the book if it weren’t an ARC that I felt obligated to read and review. Most of the characters other than Ben, the MC, felt really flat and I had no idea what was going on with the plot. There were also these weird inserts between chapters that, while they made sense in the end, didn’t accomplish much except for pulling me out of the story to roll my eyes.

Ben is also fat and there’s a lot of negative, unchallenged fat-shaming (both from Ben himself and others) that doesn’t feel like it has much of a purpose. Part of Ben’s weight is explained by his disability (a permanent leg injury), but it’s hard to tell whether the author is intentionally fat-shaming or is examining internalized fatphobia. Regardless, as I said, it’s not challenged at any point and may be difficult for readers who find that type of content to be triggering.

I will say that the book picks back up and I tore through the last 25% of it, frantic to know what was going on. I wasn’t quite satisfied by the end, but I think it was pretty well-done. It is absolutely horrific and did send chills through me, because it hits on something that freaks me out a lot personally. There were some things that definitely could have been tidied up, but nothing major.

Overall, it was an ok read. I’m right on the fence between “liked it” and “didn’t like it” and am probably gonna stay there. I think I would’ve liked it a lot more if the middle had been trimmed up and if the author had been able to maintain throughout the atmosphere he conjured at both the beginning and the end. If you think this is going to be your thing, I say go for it, but I’m also not anticipating putting this on any recommendation lists.
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I cannot stop thinking about this book. It’s brilliant in its creation of a deeply dark, shadowy, creepy, small-town-secrets atmosphere. In this sense, the atmosphere reminds me of the feeling “House of Leaves” gives me. (Now, I’m not comparing the story to “House of Leaves”, just the incredibly vivid atmospheric quality.) the story itself is decent enough, but, honestly, it’s the depth and clarity of the characters and their interactions with their own circumstances and people around them that really make this book stand out. I can’t tell you how many “horror” books I’ve read that utterly fail at creating a properly scary, oppressive, dark feeling without just going crazy with gratuitous, unfounded violence and perversion. This book just gets right to the creepy feel and doesn’t give us too much extraneous bullshit. 

However, I will say if you want a neatly wrapped package of a book, or one that isn’t sometimes slow moving, this won’t be the right one for you. As for me, I loved it. And like I said, still thinking about it - though more specifically, I’m still feeling it and that creepy creepy vibe.
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DNF @ 21%

I was so excited about this book because I loved PenPal. Then I looked at some of the reviews for the book and became very concerned. But I quickly discovered those reviews were right. 

I lost interest in this very quickly. The first 10-12% was good, but the story did not go anywhere for me. Most of the plot that I read was about the older brother getting a job at the supermarket where his younger brother went missing. It’s so forgettable that I don’t even remember any characters’ names. 

Today was the first time I felt compelled to pick the book up in a week, and after one chapter, I knew I was done with this. Maybe I will try it again in the future, but the plot was too slow and did not hold my attention.
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3 & 1/2 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in an exchange for an honest review.


If anything involving kids doesn't sit well with you then I don't recommend this. I hate anything that happens to kids but I love shows like Criminal Minds and thrillers/horror stories. This plot was so twisted and literally left me speechless until the very end. This was really one of those books that I had no idea what was happening or who was to blame. Usually, sometimes I get an inkling but guys you will not be ready for this ending. I am still reeling over the way this ended. This story follows Ben as he searches for clue after clue to find his baby brother. Ben and Eric have to go to the town grocery store. While they are there they do what brothers do, bicker and banter. When Eric has to use the restroom Ben gets a little annoyed because he JUST asked Eric if had to go. Getting out of line a man says he will take Eric and ok that is weird. Ben takes his brother but while in the bathroom Eric drops his toy into the toilet. As Ben is cleaning it he turns away for a moment. When he turns back...Eric is gone. Ben searches all over the store and the search parties are a blur. Five years later Ben is 20 and about to work at the store where Ben went missing. His relationship with his dad and stepmom is strained and he doesn't have any friends. The police department deputy is of no help and Ben doesn't know what to do in life. As he starts working there news of Eric shows up and Ben sets out on a mission to find his brother once and for all no matter what. He is not sure who to trust and everything seems so strange but he knows the answers to his brother's abduction is somewhere in that store. This truly had me on edge. I had to put the book down a few times because my heart was pounding too hard. This plot was so good and again that ending still has me shaken up.


The writing was so intricate and detailed. The author put in the perfect amount of twists and turns to keep you on a guessing wheel. Just when you think you solved it the author throws you for a spin. This is not a light and fluffy read. It will keep you on edge and maybe make you uncomfortable sometimes. My only complaint is the book should have been a bit shorter. I think at the 70% point I was ready to end the book. It got a little too wordy and explanationy for me. It was like ok just tell us who did it. Then it picked up when we finally found out what happened. That would be the only thing that I would say this needed to make it five stars because it felt like it was dragging and losing the momentum. 


Ben is an overweight 20-year-old young man struggling with what happened at 15. He is a loner and doesn't like himself at all. He struggles with identity and so many things make him question himself/his brain. He really loves his little brother and he never gives up until the very end. He was a really interesting character to read about. He is pretty tough and will go to great lengths to solve the disappearance of Eric. I also liked Marty. He was a bit of a mystery. He was hilarious and he became one of Ben's only friends. Sometimes you question him but really you do that with every single character in this book. He is determined to help Ben find his brother and he does a lot to do help him. The whole cast was really good and everyone played their part well. I didn't know who to trust and who was the main antagonist. When all is clear you will never have seen it coming.

Will be published on this month.
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This is a great attempt at the horror genre, unfortunately it had a hard time keeping my attention. There felt like there were a lot of filler pages. It got to be too much.
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Ben's older brother goes missing while on a trip to the grocery store. Five years later, Ben is still looking for the boy, and ends up taking a job at the store he disappeared at. The characters populating the store are all just a little off in some way, and to make matters worse for Ben, clues to his brother's disappearance begin showing up in the store. I really wanted to like this book. The writing is suspenseful and tight, but the plot's progress is slow and repetitive. Readers may often feel as though they are on the precipice of something substantial only to have it snatched away. Still, I would like to give the author's other book, Penpal, a try, as I truly did enjoy the writing style of Bad Man.
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A genuinely creepy book. You hear about child abductions every day and this book puts in the mind of family that goes through it.. You feel so deeply for everyone I this book.
I received a copy through Netgalley and chose to review iy
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Like "Penpal" before it, Dathan Auerbach has created another creepy, atmospheric story that will have you wondering what that creaking was just outside your door...make you want to sleep with a night light on...and hope you have a nightmareless sleep! To say anything else would just do a disservice. Go in knowing nothing but the plot and  then  disappear into the story.
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Bad Man, by Dathan Auerbach, follows the story of Ben who loses his brother, Eric, at a grocery store one afternoon.  Flash forward to five years in the future and Ben has not given up hope in finding his brother and starts working at that same grocery store!  Ben can sense something is wrong with the store, or the employees, or even the townspeople… he knows he is on the right path to discovering the truth of his brother.

The first few pages in this book are straight fire and hooked me in right away.  I had a sense of excitement that this book was going to be an instant 5-star read.  I started having all kinds of nostalgia vibes of me and my older brother when we were younger.  We would play games and annoy each other just like Ben and Eric.  You get a sense of the relationship between the two brothers and you can start to learn just how much the vanishing of young Eric affects Ben and his family life.  But after Eric’s disappearance things go a little downhill…

For starters, I felt saturated with the inner workings and description of a grocery store.  I have been in one… quite a few actually… and many times.  I did not need all the drawn out details of the store.  We get introduced to some of Ben’s new co-workers, but as the pages keep turning, I found myself forgetting all about the plot line of the vanishing brother and wondering where the heck this was going.  Was my time just being wasted?

Once you pass the halfway mark in the book, it seems the story gets a little more on track to what you expect it to be about.  You start to think maybe there will be some answers coming and some plot twists and less grocery store descriptions and long, semi-meaningless conversations between Ben and his co-workers that add what to the plot?  I am not sure if it’s just to throw all these red herrings our way or what, but it didn’t work for me.

And when the fate of Eric is revealed, it just seems rushed and almost under-explained.  After hundreds of pages, that was what we get?  Then the book just ends.  It’s all just a little jumbled up at the end.  I think the book could have been at LEAST 100 pages shorter and been just as effective if not more effective.  The amount of time the book focused on things that were just totally unrelated to what is happening can be wiped out.  I had higher hopes for this one because the synopsis sounded so good.  But 400 pages is just too long of a book for the way this one panned out in my opinion…

Also, I went into this book expecting it to be a horror novel.  It was definitely more of a mystery/suspense book and read as such.  It gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Dathan Auerbach writes extremely well and I want to check out his first book, Penpal, as well as keep an open eye for his future works.  Thank you to Doubleday for providing the Night Worms this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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In some ways, feels more like a first novel than the author's first novel. Some fascinating ideas, but a rambling execution. This author could go a long way with the right kind of editor involvement.
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BAD MAN is the first book I have read by Nathan Auerbach.  This novel is not one I'd actually classify as "horror", although some of the elements--emotionally speaking==were horrific.  Anyone who's ever had a child would find the disappearance of one so young, heartbreaking.  Ben was with his younger brother, Eric, when he went missing.

He never stopping looking for him.

What follows is more of a mystery that crosses over into "fantasy", at times, in my opinion.  Although I did enjoy the writing style, there were times when I realized I was reading through just to get to the the end and final solution.  The unreliable narrator has always been hit-or-miss for me, and in this case I think it just missed the mark.  There were also a lot of what I considered "unnecessary" details that seemed put in simply to amp up the page count.  Had this been trimmed down by 100 pages or so, it might have kept my interest more so. 

While this book wasn't for me, personally, I think that it may hit the mark with others (looking more for a missing persons story) more.
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This was pretty good! I wish it hadn't been quite so slow - a fair chunk of it seemed to be filler, and could have been omitted to make the experience of reading a bit more smooth. The story itself though was really interesting and creepy! I love Dathan's writing and enjoyed Penpal as well, so I knew I'd like this going into it.
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To be most accurate, Dathan Auerbach's Bad Man is a good 3.5 star rating for me. Two children stumbling upon a body is where we begin this tale. Who's body we're unaware of at the time but there's much speculation once we get into the girth of the story.

Ben is charged with going to get groceries for the family with his young brother Eric. As he and Eric shop for their belongings, the younger of the two needs to use the bathroom. After a mishap with Eric's stuffed animal in an effort to clean him, Ben looks up to find that his younger brother has disappeared.

Everyone's worse nightmare is to lose their child anywhere especially with the amount of crazies in the world. Imagine being a young boy and carrying the guilt of the loss with you everywhere you go?

Bad Man skips ahead five years and continues with Ben looking for his lost little brother. He receives a job in the very grocery store that he lost Eric in. Against his (and his parents') better judgement, he works the night shift stocking the shelves. Ben hopes he might find something he may have missed over the years. 

Ultimately, what kept me drawn into this novel is not only the hope that Ben finds Eric, but it is Ben and his incredible drive. He's an overweight kid with a bad leg as a result of a car crash. At times this handicap renders him almost useless, but he finds a way to persevere. He walks miles and miles knocking on doors, talking to neighbors, even breaking into places where his brother might be hidden.

There's not a day that goes by that Ben isn't haunted with Eric's ghost...

This also leaves us readers with trying to decipher between what's real and isn't. There were many moments I figured that Ben was going through some sort of psychological breakdown and that things were definitely looking strange. Even with this title being touted as horror, I didn't get that element of suspense or supernatural until a little later in the novel but by then I was over it.

Auerbach does a great job of introducing a sympathetic protagonist that carries the weight of the story for so long that I wanted him to be just taken out of his misery. I guess it was my misery as well. Is Eric alive? Will he be found? All signs point to some crazy places but I just need to know. This is my gripe. The anticipation of the ending only to be left with an unfulfilled feeling. There's a big plot twist that I feel was never really explained or explored. Yes going that route of the plot twist may have seemed obvious, but you can't put miscellaneous information out there and expect readers like me not to wonder what happened to it.

Essentially, Dathan Auerbach's Bad Man is an interesting and compelling read. Although I wasn't too happy with the ending, taking this journey with anyone else. His drive and determination kept me hooked. I felt that Ben didn't deserve the hardships he'd been dealt and I hoped that he would be OK. Please read to find out if he is OK...

Copy Provided by Doubleday Books via Netgalley
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Bad Man was such an interesting, twisty book that made me uncomfortable, nervous, and even parts that made me extremely mad. When Ben takes Eric to the store and Eric eventually disappears, the cast of characters that come forward were all so bizarre in their own ways. After Eric goes missing and Ben decides to take a job at the same place his brother went missing from, we can see him slowly developing more and more mental issues, trying to figure out what has happened to his brother, how much of it is his fault, and why the people around him are acting strangely. I really enjoyed this book, and I even enjoyed how on edge it made me feel. The ending left me with my mouth hanging open because I could not believe what I was reading. The tension and drama in Bad Man kept me hooked!
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Bad Man is exactly the type of “family drama” horror that feels relevant and fresh today. The cast of characters were raw and true. These are not glamourous individuals. But they are people I was compelled to follow and be interestes in. Auerbach gives us some disturbing imagery that I can still “see” out of the corner of my eye. I am excited to follow this author’s career to any creepy place he wants to go.
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As a long-time browser of r/NoSleep and fan of Dathan’s work, when I learned that Bad Man was being released, I was so excited. To learn that he was coming out with his first ever full-length novel—and his first new work in way too long—had me rushing to request this one, and I was beyond excited when I was approved for an ARC. That said, the end result left me with some very mixed thoughts about the execution of this story.

"He’s not coming home. It was the only echo that seemed to get louder over time, and Ben couldn’t deny that it had changed him, worn him down."

First, let me say that if you find yourself particularly susceptible to stories about child abduction, proceed with caution on this one. As a mother to a two-year-old, I rarely pick up books about kidnappings because they tend to wreak havoc on my emotional wellbeing, but since it was Dathan writing this one, I decided to give it a chance. While I never felt like I needed to DNF it, there were a few times where I had to put down my e-reader and do something else for a while, and I definitely shed a few tears (and cuddled my kiddo a lot in between chapters). The best execution of the entire storyline is the grief, and it is just written out so flawlessly that you can’t help but feel your heart break right alongside Ben’s.

"The sound was what Ben noticed the most. There was so much less to hear now, but Ben still listened."

The rest of the book’s various facets left me feeling ambivalent, frankly. It seemed as though every individual aspect to the storytelling just took things a little too far: the atmosphere was magnificently immersive until it became too repetitive, the red herrings were a whirlwind until they became too unreliable, and the unreliability of Ben’s narrative was a tremendous source of suspense until it began to feel like plot holes. More than anything, the slow burn of the story’s buildup was perfect for creating a nauseating sense of dread, until it reached a length at which I found myself simply ready for it to hurry up and end. Each of these complaints boil down to one thing: if this book had been 50-100 pages shorter, I bet it would have been a perfect 5-star read for me.

"Every person has a day that transforms trust into a choice, when he learns that people lie for reasons all their own."

All of that aside, it was obviously still an enjoyable read; that 3-star rating is more of a 3.5, and there were a lot of lesser aspects that I thought were great touches of detail. Ben is disabled and overweight, and while there is a bit of fat-shaming and ableism in regards to both of these things, I enjoyed the complexity it lent to his overall struggles and the back story he eventually came around to giving, explaining how he received his injury, and what that lack of mobility did to the rest of his daily life experiences.

"I’ll never leave you, Ben’s heart sobbed. Tell him. Tell him that I’ll stay with him forever. Even if that means neither of us can never ever leave, I’ll stay."

Was Bad Man a perfect read? No. It’s lengthy, it misses opportunities left and right, and to be totally fair, the ending left me with a sense of dissatisfaction that I haven’t been able to shake in the days since I finished reading it. Regardless, Dathan has a knack for plot lines and creepy settings, and my slightly lackluster response to this story will absolutely not slow me down when it comes time to reach for his next release, whenever that may be.

Content warnings for child abduction, abuse, fat shaming, ableism, substance addiction, racism, brief slur usage

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Doubleday Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Two brothers who are best friends. One day, one of the brothers goes missing. The surviving brother searches for the missing brother, but find their town deep into mystery and intrigue. It's not "IT" could be.

Dathan Auerbach has written an atmospheric novel that gets to the heart of a missing person. The silence between updates. The fear of death. The 'sightings'. This is a book about a small town and the monsters that live there and inside of people.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Despite my best efforts, after making it nearly halfway through this book I just could not bring myself to go on and had to DNF. I kept hoping SOMETHING would happen to keep me engaged and it didn't. It shouldn't take nearly 200 pages for a book to reel me in, and from what I can tell, this one was never going to. I certainly cannot speak for everyone and would never say "do not buy this book!" Because everyone is different and what I found to be boring and quite repetitive, someone else may find intriguing. But for me, it definitely felt like way too much of the same thing with the very occasional "spooky" aspect tossed in as an attempt to keep the reader wanting more. For me it was a failure and I doubt I'll be giving this book a second chance in the future.
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This was just not good. I got about 40 pages in, and that's all I could stand. The writing is juvenile, and I don't feel like that was because the characters are young, I think that's just the way Auerbach writes. It reads like someone trying really, really hard to emulate a classic of the horror genre.

I got an arc copy of this, which makes me feel super guilty for not finishing it, but Bad Man was a real dud. I don't have time for books like this in my life. I'm sure the author put a lot of hard work into this, but it was absolutely not for me.
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I usually try to have these reviews out before the book hits shelves, but life got in the way {as usual}. Still, I knew that I couldn't let this book go by without me gushing about it to anyone who is willing to listen.

Ben has spent five years of his life searching for his little brother Eric, the same little brother who disappeared from the grocery store while in Ben's care. Ben's life has fallen apart since then: his step-mother only leaves the house to buy Eric's birthday gifts - which they still celebrate, every year, without fail - and his father has hidden himself away deep inside his heart. Ben decides that the best way to help out is to get a job - at the same grocery store where Eric went missing. But this grocery store is not your average grocery store. And maybe this town is not your average town. Ben understands both of these things, and yet he still pokes and prods at every dark part, hoping that one will lead him to his brother.

I've been on a bit of a horror kick lately {I mean, I always am, but it's been ramped up the last month or so}, and when this book fell into my lap, I picked it up right away. Bad Man is one of those stories that makes you believe anything is possible, and not in the happy, shiny, Disney way. The story takes place mostly at the grocery store at night, since Ben works the graveyard shift, and so the tone and the atmosphere is all dark corners, shifty looks, and the feeling that the store is absolutely alive. It reminded me a lot of old Stephen King novels, where if Auerbach revealed that the store had been eating children, I'd be like, well, yeah, of course it has {honestly, I had convinced myself of this very thing for a couple of chapters}. 

Auerbach does that wonderfully beautiful thing of dropping hints as you move along in the story, so deftly and quietly that while you might pick up one, it means you might miss the other dozen or so that make up the trail to the end. There are red herrings galore and dead ends pathways littered through the novel. None of these things make Bad Man frustrating or annoying; it only adds to the suspense of finding out what really happened to Eric. Along with the mystery of a boy gone missing, the reader must also decide whether or not Ben is a reliable narrator, a feat that changes the story from chapter to chapter. I had a difficult time trusting Ben, but then suddenly, he seemed like the most trustworthy person in the whole book.

I'm telling you, Bad Man is going to make you lose your mind.

Confession time: kids really scare me. Not like I'd walk into a classroom and promptly freak out. But kids can be some of the creepiest, scariest creatures out there. Sometimes they seem otherworldly, a species entirely their own, and the children that populate Bad Man are no different. All I can say is watch the children, but don't always listen to them.

I got this ARC through NetGalley, but the moment I finished reading it, I put in a preorder for the finished thing {I also just found out that Dathan Auerbach posts creepy stories on Reddit, so excuse me while I go read his entire catalog there}. This is a book that I'm going to pick up again and again, one of those stories that will be a Halloween staple because if there's one thing that I love during the month of October, it's scaring the living hell out of myself. Bad Man will definitely do the trick. Plus some.

Oh yeah, don't read this book at night. Don't make the same mistake I did.
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