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My Friend Dahmer

A Graphic Novel


(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
My Friend Dahmer
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. Praise for My Friend Dahmer: "The tone is sympathetic and enraged ('Where were the damn adults?'), while not excusing or making the story unduly fascinating. Backderf's writing is impeccably honest in not exculpating his own misdeeds . . . and quietly horrifying. A small, dark classic." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 "One of the best graphic novels I''ve read this year." -- USA Today''s PopCandy "One of the most thought-provoking comics released in a long time." -- Slate.com
 "Carefully researched and sourced with ample back matter, Backderf's tragic chronicle of what shouldn't have been is a real butt-kicker for educators and youth counselors as well as peers of other potential Dahmers. Highly recommended for professionals as well as true crime readers." --Library Journal "This isnt a cautionary tale. Its insight sharedinsight arriving too late to save Dahmers victims, let alone Jeff himself, but perhaps soon enough to remind both teens and their caretakers that questioning peculiar behavior might be a better tack than ignoring or exploiting it." -- School Library Journal
 "Fortunately, cartoonist Derf Backderf isn''t one to avoid the troubling, even terrifying, truths that lurk in the dark recesses of that notorious serial killer''s early lifeand modern American life itself." -- Foreword Reviews "A powerful, unsettling use of the graphic medium to share a profoundly disturbing story. . . . An exemplary demonstration of the transformative possibilities of graphic narrative." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Masterful. . . a rich tale full of complexity and sensitivity . . . There''s something about Dahmer''s life and crimes that seems almost crafted for treatment in the murky world of comix. Yet it''s empathy and nuance, not gore, that put My Friend Dahmer alongside Alison Bechdel''s Fun Home and David Small''s Stitches in the annals of illustrated literature." --Cleveland Plain Dealer "A new classic of the graphic novel genre. . . . A moving book that qualifies as one of the great graphic novels, a work of art." --Creative Loafing "A well-told, powerful story. Backderf is quite skilled in using comics to tell this tale of a truly weird and sinister 1970s adolescent world."
--R. Crumb
 "Anyone who opens My Friend Dahmer to satisfy a morbid curiosity, and likewise anyone who expects to find no more than a cynical publishing venture here, is bound for disappointment. It is a horrifying read, yes, not so much for what it reveals about the sad early (and inevitably terrible) life of Jeffrey Dahmer, but because of what it reveals about the bland emotional landscape of Middle America, in this vision a petri dish for psychoses in many degrees and forms.
Backderf's odd stylization, with figures that look like organic robots, is a perfect vehicle for this conception. His graphic approach is grotesque, droll, and it rags on reality as masses of kids knew and still know it.
Lots of books exist about the agonies and cruelty of the adolescent high school experience, but few so compellingly bring us straight into that soulless environment, showing the ways it can shelter, allow to burgeon, and, at the same time, be completely blind to real madness.
It wasn't easy reading this book, but I'm glad I did."
--David Small, author and illustrator of Stitches, a National Book Award finalist and #1 New York Times bestseller "Stunning. Horrifying. Beautifully done."
--Alison Bechdel, author and illustrator of Fun Home, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist "My Friend Dahmer is a brilliant graphic novel and surely ranks among the very best of the form. Like Alison Bechdel'sFun Home, the book plumbs a dark autobiographical mystery, trying in retrospect to understand actions and motivations to piece together the makings of a tragedy. Like Charles Burns's Black Hole, it's a starkly etched portrait of the horror of high school in the 1970s. Comparisons aside, My Friend Dahmer is entirely original, boldly and beautifully drawn, and full of nuance and complexity and even a strange tenderness. Out of the sordid and grotesque details of Dahmer's life, Derf has fashioned a moving and complex literary work of art."
--Dan Chaon, award-winning author of Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me "Just when you think you know all there is to know about Jeffrey Dahmer-- one of the most notorious criminals of the past century--along comes My Friend Dahmer, which adds significantly to our understanding of this rare form of psychopathology. The graphic novel format helps the reader appreciate the adolescent mind-set of Dahmer's high school classmates. Although none of those who grew up with Dahmer expected to hear what they learned on July 22, 1991, when he was caught, no one was really surprised, either.
This unique book allows the reader to listen in on the fascinating reminiscences of those who watched the developing mind of a future serial killer."
--Louis B. Schlesinger, PhD, Professor of Forensic Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice "It'd be so easy to pigeonhole and think that the reason you can't stop reading My Friend Dahmer is because it offers a voyeuristic peek inside the monster. And it does. But as it turns its self-aware eye on the boy who doesn't belong, the real magic trick is how equally hateful and sad you feel for the monster himself. This one's still haunting me."
--Brad Meltzer, author of Identity Crisis and The Inner Circle, a #1 New York Times bestseller

 "As someone who walked the halls of Revere High School with both Backderf and Dahmer and was there from the beginning, I am astounded by the accuracy and truthfulness of this portrait. I know of no other work that so clearly shows the teenage days of an American monster, long before the rest of the world heard of him. Mesmerizing."
--Mike Kukral, PhD, Revere High School class of 1978, Professor of Geography, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, author of Prague 1989: Theater of Revolution "If you want to read a heavy story about a disturbing teenager, My Friend Dahmer will certainly quench your dark little desires. But this book is about a lot of other things that matter much, much more: the institutionalized weirdness of the suburban seventies, what it means to be friends with someone you don't really like, a cogent explanation as to why terrible things happen, and a means for feeling sympathy toward those who don't seem to deserve it."
--Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
and The Visible Man "A solid job. Putrid serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's origins are explored in this fine book. Dig it--it'll hang you out to dry."
--James Ellroy, author of My Dark Places and L.A. Confidential
Publisher: New York : Abrams ComicArts, 2012
ISBN: 1419702173
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 D444m 2012
Characteristics: 221 p. : chiefly ill. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Kochman, Charles
Harry N. Abrams, Inc


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Dec 17, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

"I had normal friendships in high school . . . and really never had any close friendships after high school."
- Jeff Dahmer

I briefly met Derf Backderf a couple of years ago, when he was telling a small group I was a part of about this book. He said that Jeffrey Dahmer killed his first victim two weeks after Backderf last talked to him, at high school graduation. Before that they were classmates, peers, and friends.

Though the word "friend" is a bit of an overstatement, as Backderf wasn't all that great to Dahmer; still, Backderf and his group of buds were about as good as friendship ever got for Dahmer. They never quite bonded with him and didn't much associate away from the captivity of school, but at least they accepted him there. That was a welcome contrast from his reclusive home life with his unhappy family, trying his best to repress the host of impulses he knew were wrong without ever sharing them with anyone. At school Dahmer could at least act out a little to relieve the pressure, and Backderf's group accepted him as a curiosity and entertaining spectacle as much as a friend.

Backderf has recreated as much of Dahmer's middle and high school years as possible from his perspective as someone on the edges of Dahmer's life. He draws from his own memories, those of friends and associates he interviewed, Dahmer's as shared in interviews with journalists, and the public documents and records available. He shares his graphic account with highly effective artwork and fairly matter-of-fact writing, choosing for the most part to let the story speak for itself. It is a fascinating, sad portrait, one well worth reading.

The section titles tell a bit of a story all by themselves:
- Part 1: The Strange Boy
- Part 2: A Secret Life
- Part 3: The Dahmer Fan Club
- Part 4: Becoming the Monster
- Part 5: Fade to Black

May 21, 2014
  • JCLMELODYK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

No one could have saved Dahmer. But they sure as hell could have saved his victims. It is almost incomprehensible the number of people who chose to ignore this psychopath.

Apr 24, 2014
  • CraigGraziano rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

My Friend Dahmer is much more than just a grisly expose on the teenage life of a future serial killer; it is also a rumination on the culture of 1970's suburbia, where teens were left to their own devices in the wake of divorce or career-minded parents.

Read more at: http://www.librarypoint.org/my_friend_dahmer_backderf

Feb 23, 2014
  • KateHillier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

There's always that guy or girl in your class. This is of story of that guy actually becoming a serial killer. There's enough out there about infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer but this is the story, as much as can be said, of his youth. Of how isolated he was in school and just how his spiral began. I think what I like best about this is how honest it is. Backderf doesn't claim to be closer to him than he was, he supplements with other sources as needed (there are comprehensive notes in the back), and explains why certain people are omitted. It's a disturbing but also tragic book. The tragedy, as the author states, stops after Dahmer kills his first victim but you just wonder if there was some way he could have been saved. That somebody could have noticed or done something even though there was probably nothing to be done

Dec 30, 2013
  • martypants rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An incredible work of non-fiction!

Dec 17, 2013
  • mawls rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An intimate look at Jeffrey Dahmer told through the eyes of a former friend before Dahmer was an infamous serial killer. I was nervous to read this because of the subject matter, but I'm glad I read it. The story is Backderf's story and it is well researched and not told lightly.

Nov 24, 2013
  • kpb98 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

oftentimes hard to take but still compelling. not for the faint of heart though. many of the graphic details are in the appendix. still interesting as it gives a rare story of someone who knew a murderer "way back when"

Nov 17, 2013
  • briannek7 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A deeply unsettling but fascinating must-read. Bear in mind that it doesn't go into the details of the crimes for which Dahmer is best known, so you may want to do a little research before or after you read this.

Aug 11, 2013
  • Mark_Daly rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A scrupulously told story that asks all the right questions and wisely refuses to provide answers. In 1991 Derf unexpectedly found himself at the fringes of infamy, and after decades of effort, in this book he wrings the experience of all it's worth. Autobio comics and reportage combine in this compelling work.

Apr 30, 2013
  • DexDude rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A very interesting read. It's a very well described account of Dahmer's life that actually backed up by facts (they are even listed in the back of the book in great detail). I really enjoyed reading this book and didn't put it down until finshed it.

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