My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

my friend dahmer

My Friend Dahmer
Derf Backderf
Abrams ComicArts, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0217-4
FORMAT: Graphic Novel
AGES: Young Adult, Adult
3.5 Stars

I read this book as part of the 2013 YALSA The Hub Reading Challenge. So far for the challenge I have read:

16. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
15. In Darkness by Nick Lake
14. Crusher by Niall Leonard
13. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
12. The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell
11. Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
10. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
9. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
6. Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
5. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
4. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
3. Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
2. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
1. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Wow. I don’t even know where to start with this book. I didn’t even know what it was about when I started reading it. I just read it as part of this reading challenge. And I say again, Wow.

So it turns out Jeff Dahmer was a serial killer in the 70s/80s. I don’t really remember him, but in 1991 it was discovered that he killed people, had sex with the corpses, and cut them up. His apartment was full of bodies. The crazy thing was the author of this book went to junior high and high school with him. This book is about what he remembers when Jeff Dahmer was his friend.

Even though this is a graphic novel and the fact that I get woozy with blood, guts and gore…I wasn’t horrified by what was in the illustrations (I was a bit horrified by what Dahmer did, but I think I am with everyone else on that point). Everything portrayed was from the point of view of those that knew Dahmer. They didn’t have any clue as to what he did until the story broke in 1991. They knew he was a bit strange and had a few problems…but they had no idea. Plus, this was mostly about Dahmer before he became the serial killer.

This is a good book. It is interesting to see so much back story from a high school friend’s point of view. And of course looking at it from the back story it is easier to see bits and pieces that could have escalated his destructive tendencies. And seriously, where were all the adults? I am shocked that so many adults had no idea what was going on with Dahmer when he was in high school. I know high school for me (in the late 1990s) was much different than for a class of 1978, but still. There should have been adults (like his parents) who knew what their son was doing for a hobby or at school (or lack thereof). There were so many signs that he was troubled…yet no adult was there to help. Not that I think all the adults should be completely blamed for his choices. Those were Dahmer’s and his alone. Yet, perhaps they could have guided him or gotten him counseling. Maybe something could have been done.

This is a great story about how there are secrets around that people just can’t guess. And a powerful story to show how adults who are responsible for or interact with teenagers should be part of a teen’s life…not just an ornament in it. This story gave me a lot to think about (and a lot I didn’t want to think about). But it was good. Wow is just about the best word to describe it.

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