Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Posted October 21, 2013 by shooting in Uncategorized / 12 Comments

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

purchase through the book depository, I’m an affiliate

Review by Lauren

copy from library, all opinions are still my own

Official Summary: In these pages, Backderf tries to make sense of Jeffery Dahmer, the future
serial killer with whom he shared classrooms, hallways, libraries and car rides.
What emerges is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a young man struggling
helplessly against the urges, some ghastly, bubbling up from the deep recesses
of his psyche. The Dahmer recounted here, although universally regarded as an
inhumane monster, is a lonely oddball who, in reality, is all too human. A shy
kid sucked inexorably into madness while the adults in his life fail him. The
crimes Dahmer committed are incredibly depraved, infamous and unforgettable, but
in My Friend Dahmer Backderf provides profound (and at times, even strangely
comic) insight into how, and more important, why Jeffery Dahmer transformed from
a high school nerd into the most depraved serial killer since Jack the Ripper,
coming as close as anyone yet has to explaining the seemingly unexplainable
phenomenon of Jeffery Dahmer.

Review: Honestly, I find serial killers very interesting. It’s hard to imagine someone who would repeatedly kill, and often in horrific ways, but I’m curious to hear about some of the possible reasons. As for Jeffrey Dahmer, I didn’t know much about him going into this book, but in the end, I do find sympathy for the kid that he used to be.

My Friend Dahmer is a graphic book and while it’s non-fiction, it’s not entirely a memoir of Backderf’s. He uses his own memories and experiences with Dahmer, but he also interviewed friends of his from high school and others to get a broad picture of the type of person Dahmer was in high school…before he ever killed anyone.

The artwork is almost creepy in a way, as the people seem so much older. For instance, Dahmer appears more as an older guy than a high school teenager. With the black and white drawings, My Friend Dahmer’s illustrations definitely works well at making readers realize something is a bit off.

Back in high school, Backderf wouldn’t say he was friends with Dahmer. Him and the guys he hung out with were probably some of the closets friends Dahmer did have though, based on this book. One of the things this group found amusing about Dahmer was his impression of a mentally challenged man that his mom had hired to re-do the house. What the guys didn’t realize at the time, though, is that Dahmer was impersonating some of his mom’s own fits as well.

page from book
The above drawing depicts Dahmer doing this strange impression at the local mall. A bunch of guys paid Dahmer to do this in public, which he did, but what Backderf witnessed before the moment is that Dahmer practically inhaled many cans of beer before doing this. This was just one moment someone witnessed that showed that Dahmer was not completely okay. He had issues at home and was trying to use alcohol to numb the secret, depraved thoughts he had begun to have soon after realizing he was gay.
I won’t go on and on, because this could turn into a very long discussion about the book and Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and eventual crimes. I will say, though, that this is certainly a book worth reading, especially if you are interested in the psychology behind crimes and serial killers.

12 responses to “Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

  1. Serial killers are really interesting to me. I'm really curious what's that to keep someone kill again and again. So for that reason this book seems really interesting. Great review 🙂

  2. I loved this book, although it is quite disturbing. I think the art was super effective and that Backderf did a wonderful job of making the young Dahmer sympathetic while never excusing his crimes.

  3. Like you, I'm a bit fascinated by serial killers and I think Dahmer is the most interesting of them all. Nothing is ever black and white, so I'm glad this shows part of the cause, and not just the consequence. I'll make sure to get a copy somehow.
    Great review.

  4. I'm definitely curious about the psychology aspect of this all. I'm not a graphic novel reader, so this might not be the story for me. But if there was something on history channel (or something) I'd be all over it!

  5. I find serial killers fascinating, but I tend to usually only want to read about fictional ones like Hannibal Lector because true crime is more disturbing to me since it's real. However, this seems like an interesting look into the early life of a notorious serial killer, and it sounds really fascinating. I might check this one out if my library has it. Wonderful thoughtful review!

  6. Yeah, it was kind of difficult to read because I did feel sympathetic in a way to Jeff. He knew he was troubled and he had nobody to turn to. As serial killers go, he seemed to be one of the the most remorseful ones I've ever read about. Of course, that's no excuse for what he did-but I found it to be an interesting read.

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