From the publisher: On May 31, 2014, in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, 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 in deeply researched detail, using court transcripts, police reports, individual reporting, and exclusive interviews.
I live in Illinois, and we got plenty of coverage of the weird and disturbing Slenderman case when it happened. However, I haven’t read a lot about it since 2014, and this book filled in a lot of details. I found the narrative pretty riveting. It’s so hard to imagine being a 12-year-old girl who loves animals and reading but who also believes a fantasy figure is telling you to kill your best friend.
The author did seven years of research, and it shows. However, the book is slanted toward Morgan Geyser’s journey, because she and the people around her agreed to be interviewed. The other two principal figures in the case, Bella Leutner and Anissa Weier, did not. This resulted in a feeling that the book isn’t quite the “full story.”
Parents, I recommend you approach this book with caution. I don’t have kids and I was absolutely horrified reading how Geyser, suffering from early onset schizophrenia, was detained without access to therapy, medication, or education. A mentally ill child was treated like an adult because of the decisions of one judge. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the parents of all three girls. Angie Geyer “remembered how judgmental she had been when news first broke about the Columbine shooting in Colorado, thinking, ‘How did their parents not know that something was wrong? Well, you know…it turns out sometimes you just don’t know.’” (p. 158 of the advance reader copy) I don’t envy parents trying to navigate and raise healthy children in the confusing world we live in these days.
I had a hard time putting down Slenderman, but I did find the ending unsatisfactory. It is very abrupt, I guess because the story is not finished. I think an epilogue of thoughts or conclusions from the author would have helped. Still, if you are interested in true crime and mental health, you may want to read Slenderman.
I read an advance reader copy from Netgalley.
Slenderman is available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.