On May 31, 2014, in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, Wisconsin, two twelve-year-old girls attempted to stab their classmate to death. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier's violence was extreme, but what seemed even more frightening was that they committed their crime under the influence of a figure born by the internet: the so-called "Slenderman." Yet the even more urgent aspect of the story, that the children involved suffered from undiagnosed mental illnesses, often went overlooked in coverage of the case. Slenderman tells that full story for the first time.
Wildly unsettling ... The Slenderman case can seem impenetrably bizarre, but Hale nimbly documents the numerous contributing factors to the online legends, the crime and its judicial outcome ... Hale is originally from Wisconsin, providing her well-developed true-crime narrative with an insider's take on social and cultural norms that fostered the communication breakdown among authority figures ... Never one to accept villainous characterizations at face value, Hale...painstakingly peels back the sensationalized layers of Morgan's case. What she uncovers is a deeply American and profoundly Christian rigidity in thinking about crime and punishment ... Slenderman is careful not to minimize the seriousness of the crime in question: two girls nearly killed another. Instead, Hale builds a poignant rebuttal to one lawyer's repeated assertion that 'there is only one victim in this case.' Hale's capacity for empathy may be disagreeable to some, but her steady narrative vision brings clarity to a thoroughly upsetting situation.
If there’s a true crime voice, it’s that of a Midwestern prime-time news anchor, totally deracinated and mellifluous — the kind that makes the worst horrors seem matter-of-fact, not occasions for contemplation but for strict punishment. That isn’t Kathleen Hale’s voice, exactly, but it’s close ... The lesson of Slenderman is not about tracking your kids’ internet usage, evolving friendships, or enthusiasms and aversions. It’s that serious mental illness can manifest in people who seem far too young to have such adult problems.
The lurid headlines of the stranger-than-fiction crime missed many crucial facts about the case, which author Kathleen Hale lays out in rigorous step-by-step detail that’s the result of seven years of research ... Hale’s compassionate look at the case is a compelling yet harrowing read that reveals how a seemingly innocent childhood friendship could lead to such a devastating outcome.