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.
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Release Date: 1st March, 2012
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Over the past six months, I’ve been developing a keen interest in true crime. So when I learned that a graphic novel about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood exists, I was eager to read it. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf is a non-fiction account of the time the author spent with Dahmer in high school.
My Friend Dahmer turned out to be an interesting and unique graphic novel. Backderf’s decision to tell his account of Dahmer in graphic novel form is a really creative one. I liked learning about Dahmer’s childhood in this way and discovering Backderf’s thoughts about how Dahmer became such a monster in this form provided a different insight into this particular serial killer. My Friend Dahmer was a very quick read and this was because of the artwork. I really enjoyed the art and I wanted to see what each panel would contain in terms of the drawings.
There are a couple of negative points to mention. There isn’t much going on in terms of content, so as a reader I didn’t learn lots of things about Dahmer’s childhood, which was a bit of a let down. It is important to remember, however, that My Friend Dahmer is someone else’s view of Dahmer’s teenage years and perhaps I was expecting to learn more than Backderf could offer. Also, and this might sound a bit odd, I don’t think the title should be My Friend Dahmer. Having read the graphic novel, it is clear that Backderf was never friends with Dahmer. He was more of an acquaintance. The title is a bit misleading and this could be another reason why I expected to learn more than I did.
Overall, My Friend Dahmer is definitely something to check out if you like true crime and have a particular interest in Dahmer. Just don’t expect to learn loads of new information.