Book Review - My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides.
In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche—a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.
I am quite fascinated by true crimes and serial killers - what makes them tick and why they kill. So when I heard about this from another blog, I quickly added it to my TBR. Because I'd been very busy lately, I thought I'd end the year with something light - not the subject matter of course, but that I'd read graphic novels instead.
Sometime between 1996 and 2002, I read a book on Jeffery Dahmer - I didn't blog back then obviously so I do not remember much about it apart from some of the sickening details of his crimes. This book gave us a glimpse of what he was like in high school, which may or may not have provided some insight on why he did what he did.
The author/artist, who went to school with Dahmer, did say so in the beginning that "pity him, but don't empathize with him" (p11.) I agreed with his sentiments - you kinda wondered "what if"... but it really didn't excuse all his wrongdoings.
The author/artist also did some research to fill in the holes of the story - mainly with stories and interviews from the media (interviews with Dahmer and his parents etc), as well as memories of a few who went to school together. It was quite an interesting to read his research/reference notes at the end, which I appreciated.
I would have to say though, the title, "My Friend Dahmer" is a little bit misleading because I really did not think they were friends. Acquaintance, yes. Friends, no. Dahmer was more his (and his actual friends') object of amusement. Though it seemed like Dahmer did enjoy the short-lived "friendship, probably because that was one of the few occasions where someone would pay attention and talk to him, even if it was not with the best intentions.
Note - The book was borrowed from the library.
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