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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
xiao xiao
Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t the only serial killer American produced in the late 20th century but he was one of the most disturbing ones, if only because, after he was caught in 1991, he was candid and forthright about what he had done. Unlike Gacy and others who come to mind, he didn’t make excuses or try to shift the blame. But he really didn’t know why he had killed sixteen men, either. Backderf, who was a schoolmate of his in the late ’70s in a suburban high school near Akron, struggled with the story for years, with trying to understand the young Dahmer in retrospect, and with attempting to identify the causes of his (let’s face it) insanity. His first brief attempts weren’t very good, as he admits himself, but then he decided to do it right, researching Dahmer’s background and studying all the police and FBI documents, and the result is an amazing, and unsettling, picture. Backderf is, first and always, an artist, and the fact that this is a graphic “novel” gives the story a much greater impact than if it were only a block of text.

Dahmer was at the very bottom of the social ladder in school, below even the band and art nerds like Backderf and his friends, and they all knew he was a very strange kid. The adults in their world, for some reason, never noticed a thing, and he has some pointed things to say about that generational blindness. Dahmer’s parents didn’t help any, either. His father was a chemist in Akron’s automotive rubber industry, as was Backderf’s, but his mother was extremely unstable, both physically and mentally, and they both ignored their son while pursuing an extremely contentious divorce. They, too, never noticed his hobby of collecting and slicing up roadkill. Or his increasingly extreme consumption of alcohol, which was his attempt to suppress the urges he could feel bubbling up inside himself. His high school friends, who created the Dahmer Fan Club, encouraged his acting-out, especially his mimicking of his mother’s “fits” -- he was a “spazz freak” -- and the author admits they were lacking in good sense. Like most teenagers.

It’s a very honest book, and a very unsettling one. Backderf doesn’t spare himself or his buddies in their own misdeeds, but he only feels empathy for Dahmer up until the moment he takes his first opportunistic victim, a young hitchhiker. None of his peers expected him to become a serial killer, of course -- but none of them were very surprised, either. As the author asks several times, “Where were the adults?” This is the kind of book that, when you finish it, you’ll sit and think awhile about what you’ve read. And then you’ll go back to the beginning and read it straight through again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
isaac troll
This is labeled a "graphic novel," although I think the more appropriate category is graphic memoir, as it is a fact-based retelling of the author's experiences in high school, when he was friends with Jeffrey Dahmer. The story takes a somewhat sympathetic approach, but not too overly syrupy, in that he points out how any number of people in his life might have reached out to help Jeffrey before he completely went off the deep end. The author does have an interesting tale about how he met Dahmer and the events in their teenage lives. It was disturbing to me that so many people abandoned him or failed to hold him accountable for various things, including heavy drinking and the mutilation of small animals. To his credit, the author does point out that no Dahmer committed the crimes and deserved the sentence he was given. This was an interesting, if troubling, read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stefany
Having gruesomely murdered 17 young men, Jeffrey Dahmer is probably the most notorious serial killer in the USA. Derf Backderf went to school with Dahmer, and was even the president of the Dahmer Fan Club in their rural Ohio high school. Derf lost track of Dahmer in 1978 after graduation and went on to become a cartoonist. When he found out, along with the rest of the world, of Dahmer's 1991 arrest in Wisconsin he felt compelled to flesh out his memories and to write the story of the lonely, disturbed teenage Dahmer he knew. My Friend Dahmer is the result. In graphic novel form he tells all that he can of Dahmer's teen years. This is not the story of a serial murderer, instead it is the story of a teen age boy who never got any help from his family, his schools, or his community in dealing with the feelings growing inside him. In this book is the boy Derf knew in high school as he struggles with the challenges of growing up that for him were so overwhelming that they eventually lead to a murderous life.

Derf sees the teenage Dahmer as a tragic figure, but he has no sympathy for Dahmer the murderer, who he sees as a selfish coward who should have ended his own life rather than taking the lives of others. He draws from his own memories and others, as well as recorded interviews, FBI reports, newspaper stories, and Lionel Dahmer's book about his son. These are all listed in a 23 page section of "Sources" at the end of the book. While this book is called a graphic novel, it is more a biography than fiction, and is of great value in getting to understand the early years of a serial killer.
Mostly Harmless :: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness :: Tiger Tracks - The Classic Panzer Memoir :: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 1 :: & Other Girls of Whimsy Coloring Book
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
reagan
I was a bit disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a memoir, of sorts, from someone who had actually been friends with Jeffrey Dahmer. Instead I read a graphic novel, wonderful in it’s own way, titled “My Friend Dahmer” where the author spends large portions of the story saying “we weren’t really friends, but I’m probably as close as he got so I’ll claim it.”

"But at school, Jeff, for the first time, had friends. OK, he was more mascot than pal. He was, after all, a pretty strange kid. But he’s always been a nonentity. Now he was the center of attentions!"

Yeah, he called Dahmer a mascot and not a friend. Now, I get it, sometimes the weird ones are hard to really consider friends. I’m fairly weird, so I’m pretty sure I was this person for some people. I even had a few of these “friends” myself, but I never called them my friends. They were acquaintances. But I guess “My Acquaintance Dahmer” wasn’t as catchy a book title, huh?

Regardless of my issues with the title, I was fascinated by the story and was thrilled that it was in graphic novel format. The artwork works well with the story being portrayed and, as tragic and graphic as this story is, it is probably one I would include on a required reading list. If it makes enough of a difference in one person’s perspective to turn that awkward mascot into a real friend, then it’s done it’s job. It’s only more heartbreaking to know that if an adult had just taken a bit more time and noticed something was up that Dahmer might not have turned into a killer, let alone a serial killer.

This book was so hard to put down that I was actually reading it while sewing – not an easy feat I might add! I recommended this book, already, to my mother and will be making sure my youngest brother (in eighth grade) reads it. This was a used bookstore find and, while I had heard of the book before, I had never bothered to look into getting my own copy because I was under the impression it would be just like every other “I knew random famous/infamous person before you did so I really did know them” and in a lot of ways it was because, like I said, this guy wasn’t really friends with Dahmer like the title suggests, but it is written as a graphic novel, which is different, and he even admits in the book that Dahmer wasn’t really his friend. Sooo… Props for honesty within the book if not the title, but I did still knock off a star for that because it was extremely disappointing for me to discover it was “My Acquaintance Dahmer.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sentenza
A humanizing look at an infamous serial killer, My Friend Dahmer does what little works are able to do, and that is feel make you feel sympathy for the bad guy. And make no mistake, Dahmer is the BAD GUY here. Backderf’s autobiographical account of his teenage friendship with the killer is not the sugar-coated memoir of a lost soul, nor is it particularly exploitative of Dahmer and his crimes. In fact, we hardly even TOUCH on his crimes in here. Instead, this is the portrait of a damaged person (although the origins of this damage are not entirely known, as to carry through with the things Jeffery Dahmer has done, to us not on his frequency, is quite unknowable) as told through someone who was (however briefly) once close to him. As such Backderf treats his subject with the kind of sympathy you’d reserve for someone whom you might’ve once called a friend. Though the author makes it abundantly clear that Dahmer’s actions are miles beyond forgivable, it’s still an interesting new side to a well-known story, and a rare glimpse at the human beneath the monster’s skin.

Also, I REALLY loved the illustrations in this book. Heavy inked, black & white, with a sorta Robert Crumb kinda influence. The art in this book rules.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roobie
Jeffrey Dahmer's high school classmate Derf Backderf excels at using his drawing and journalism skills to tell the story of Dahmer's middle and high school years from the perspective of one of the marginally cooler kids in school. Both were "band nerds," but Dahmer was considered substantially weirder and creepier, gaining a fan club the (the Dahmer Fan Club) as a result of his disruptive impressions of his family's interior decorator, who had cerebral palsy and a speech impediment and, eventually, his mother's drug-induced seizures.

It is hard to believe that the person writing and illustrating "My Friend Dahmer" is, in fact, a grownup. He very successfully channels his high school band nerd self, including some illustrations and photographs he did for the high school yearsbook in which Dahmer was, willingly and probably to gain minimal appreciation, the butt of the jokes.

One of the reasons Backderf published this book--long after publishing some preliminary versions--was to show the world what Dahmer's high school friends knew all along--that this kid was hurting. Dahmer was an alcoholic from a very early age and isolated and abandoned due to his parents' concentration on their battles with each other. Teachers and counselors seemed not to notice that Dahmer came to school every day reeking of alcohol and skipping classes, drinking in the bushes outside the school and peering in the window (in one memorable panel).

Backderf is not only an evocative cartoonist--his stylized work is someone reminiscent of R. Crumb--but a superb journalist who researched and documented his sources expertly and responsibly. He made excellent use of the FBI files available through the Freedom of Information Act, articles in Akron (whiere Dahmer killed and butchered his first victim) and Wisconsin papers, and interviews with Dahmer. The artwork itself includes many details worth revisiting, especially those panels depicting Dahmer's home and the surrounding wooded area where his fantasies overcame him. I have to add that there is a priceless set of panels about Dahmer terrorizing the school librarian.

Backderf makes it clear that Dahmer's elders failed him. At the same time that he recognizes and owns the cruelty and cluelessness that of his 17-year-old self and his cohort in their relationship with Dahmer. Dahmer was a good enough friend for amusement, but excluded when it came to real camaraderie. Although a bit heavy-handed in his accusations at times, I think he is right to take this stance. One intervention by someone--parent, teacher, counselor, police officer--could have prevented heartbreak for the families of his seventeen victimes, from 1978 to 1991. Dahmer was not crazy. Backderf makes the point that Dahmer was thoughtful and reasonable in his discussions with psychologists and investigators after being apprehended. Backderf also bluntly places substantial blame on Dahmer's own cowardice, noting that he could have stopped the 13-year slaughter by turrning himself in or "putting a gun to his head" but continued to put satisfaction of his own sexual fantasies ahead of the lives of his victims and his family. Backderf's book is a valuable cautionary tale for those who care about troubled youth today--none the less so for being a fascinating read for true crime aficionados.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jason rabin
Author/illustrator Derf Backderf tries to shed light on what made Jeffrey Dahmer become a serial killer. His conclusion: no one, not even Dahmer, knows. At first I was afraid this book would be horribly graphic, but it basically covers his high school years and doesn't get into the murders at all. I found the end notes and research notes every bit as honest and interesting as the book itself. I think Backderf took pains to recreate the story accurately and be sensitive to those involved. The clunky, black and white illustrations have an almost Frankenstein's monster feel, that worked well for this book. I admire Backderf's candor in how badly he and others treated Dahmer--I guess they were typical high school jerks, but yuck, what jerks they were. And I didn't agree with Backderf's passing the buck with "Where were all the adults?" Well, clearly, there is blame enough to go around when a kid arrives drunk at school every day, but don't just point the finger at someone else and say "Well, they should have noticed!"

Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who thinks it sounds interesting. It is not as sensational as I feared it would be, and if it helps a high school student be kinder, or an adult tune in even slightly more to the misfit kid, then good will come from that.

About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got this book: purchased for the library
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lyric
Are serial killers monsters at birth or are they products of their environment?

This question is as old as the serial killers phenomenon itself and lots of people love to put the responsibility on faulty genetics. Derf Backderf offers here an awkwardly pleasant counterpoint, offering the portrait of a clearly troubled young man who nobody wanted to be involved with. Young Jeff Dahmer's dark urges were blossoming at the same time his family life was falling apart and everybody were too passionate with their own problems in order to pay him attention. MY FRIEND DAHMER is as much of an exploration of small town inner mechanics as it is an exploration of the character. I really liked it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
allison c
For a moment, I considered giving this 4 stars. Why did I change my mind? I was wanting a deeper dive on Dahmer's family, BUT I remembered: Derf didn't live with Dahmer. Derf didn't have video footage of Dahmer's home life to go on. He didn't have sleep-overs at Dahmer's house.....he was simply Dahmer's schoolmate and social acquaintance. I knew a guy in high school much like Dahmer. You know the kid: you give him a dollar and he'll lick a toilet seat or put a lizard in his mouth....willing to do anything for a laugh; but, people were more often laughing at him than with him. Was Derf a 'Mother Teresa' to Dahmer? No, but high school kids (certainly in the 70's) didn't quite know how to handle that weird, probably disturbed kid. I can't imagine that anyone else in the world could've written a book on Dahmer like this one.
Jeff Dahmer is another example of how mental disorders are not dealt with in our society properly, and now, over 20 years later......it's only slightly improved. Although the content is disturbing on many levels, this is one of the finest biographical graphic novels of the past 40 years.....it deserves every award it has received and about 5 more!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
john golden
While the art style of this graphic novel wasn't my favorite, the book itself was great. Backderf shows the world in which Dahmer grew up, offering insight into what might have led him down the path he ultimately took. My favorite thing about this, though, was Backderf's insistence that no one forced Dahmer to become a killer; he made that decision on his own. This is one of the few serial killer biographies that holds the killer solely responsible for his own actions rather than trying to lay blame on the parents/teachers/bullies/etc.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
b lyon
Awesome! Great concept and idea. The graphics themselves kept me very engaged as well. I also went to see the movie! $15 for the MATINEE! Yikes, expensive! it was worth it though! Ross Lynch was great as a high school version of Dahmer. I want to see the movie again but can't find it now. Anyway, I'd recommend buying the graphic novel AND seeing the movie as a companion experience to this piece. Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shelley arvai
We all read and hear about people who do terrible things on the news. It is rare, however, to know one of those people during their adolescent years. My Friend Dahmer is the extended version of a 24 page self-published comic that follows a young Jeffrey Dahmer from age 12 to his first murder two weeks after his high school graduation. The book's artist and author, Derf Backderf, was high school friends with Dahmer and witnessed many warning signs of the brutal murders he would commit later in life. Derf went to the shed behind Dahmer's house where he would dissolve roadkill in acid, witnessed Dahmer's odd and inappropriate attempts to gain attention and friendship, and saw his descent into alcoholism. The story explains that Dahmar understood his inner thoughts and desires were not normal, so he turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. In an amazing display of callousness, not a single one of his teachers voiced concern, even though he was showing up to school stumbling drunk on a regular basis. It makes you wonder what would have happened if a concerned adult had stepped in.

The book does not seek to excuse Dahmer of any of his actions. In fact, Derf states very clearly that he does not forgive Dahmer for any of the horrific crimes he committed. It does, however, show that Dahmer was an isolated and confused young man. His mother suffered from mental illness and his father left towards the end of high school. By the time he graduated high school, he was living by himself and wrestling with his inner demons without any family support.

Both the story and the artwork are outstanding. There are several unforgettable scenes in the book, but one of my personal favorites that stayed with me long after finished reading it was a beautiful, dark drawing of Dahmer walking down a long rural road. Derf's art captures Jeffrey Dahmer's total isolation. In addition to commanding visuals like the road drawing, Derf also has a flair for the subtle details that add so much to the book. On one of the first pages there is a drawing of the outside of Dahmer and Derf's Revere High School. A sign reads, "Congratulations Seniors. Good Luck". The C in congratulations is hanging off kilter, giving us a sense that something is off from the very beginning of the book.

My Friend Dahmer is a very effective examination of the life of a teenager. We all have friends that demonstrate destructive and anti-social behaviors when we are young. Alerting an adult about a friend you're worried about can be scary. While Derf and his friends all seemed to realize that Dahmer was headed to a bad place, none of them imagined he was capable of such horrific acts of violence. After finishing My Friend Dahmer, you get the sense that Derf wishes he can go back in time so her could alert someone about Jeffrey Dahmer so that he could get some help.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tiffany carter
I really liked this graphic novel-- the situations were interesting and I feel like it gave some insights that you don't get from most sources, as well as that personal feel. I would've given it 5 stars had it not been for one thing-- Backderf's constant judgments (which were, at times, even conflicting).

(SPOILERS AHEAD-->) For example, Dahmer's mother is depicted as a seriously mentally ill woman. But somehow, she's to blame for her "selfishness". If she is as mentally ill as is implied, how could she know better?

(MORE SPOILERS) At several points, Dahmer's father's absence is well-noted; later in the notes, Backderf calls Dahmer a coward for not talking to his father about the thoughts in his head. I can guarantee you that in 2015, if I had these thoughts, it would be hard for me to tell my mother about them (and we are very close). During the late 70s-early 80s, I can't even imagine what that must've been like for him.

(MORE SPOILERS) I think that Backderf is trying too hard to be proactive in telling everyone, "I'm not excusing what he did!" (understandably so-- from what I gleaned, he's been harshly criticized for making Dahmer a sympathetic character), but it takes away from the story. Saying the "only tragedy" was that Dahmer didn't kill himself after the first murder bothered me. Shouldn't the tragedy be that Dahmer didn't get help when the first thoughts came about? What about the fact that mental illness/perverse thoughts are *still* so much of a taboo, people don't feel comfortable getting help for it?

(AND MORE) How about blaming the police for not checking those bags? Of this, Backderf says, "It's hard to believe that officers weren't more suspicious...and that they didn't recognize the distinctive stench of a dead body coming from the car." Yet, a few pages later, when writing about the garbage men taking the body parts, he admits to having been a garbage man himself and that the stench Dahmer's bags would've emitted "would not have been all that unusual."

(NO MORE SPOILERS) I can't be too upset at Backderf, though. First of all, the novel and depictions were done in such a way that made you feel and think. But I have some suspicions that all the finger-pointing is so that he can fight the guilt that *anyone* would have in that situation: What could *I* have done?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kaysha kidd madsen
I read this in one short burst so as to avoid prolonging the inevitable sequence of nightmares it would undoubtedly produce. I'd read the shorter comic book version of it years ago and was appropriately fascinated by it, so was glad to discover Backderf had developed a longer, more detailed and comprehensive telling of his "friendship" with Dahmer during high school. I appreciated the lengths the author went to research certain details through interview and reading police files in addition to serving up his own vivid memories of Jeff Dahmer and the circle of friends he associated with. The book is powerfully drawn and irresistibly creepy. Maybe as close to providing an answer to the "why?" of serial killers as any other psychological text, My Friend Dahmer depicts a severely screwed up kid who might have benefited from some adult intervention early on, but who may just as well have done what he did, regardless. Warning: cartoon Dahmer is just as chilling (if not more so) as the one who splashed into national consciousness in 1991 with his refrigerator full of more than Old Milwaukee.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dawn dickson
If you read my reviews regularly you'll know I read a lot of serial killer books, both fiction and true crime. I have never read about Jeffrey Dahmer before though. On purpose. When that case went public I was just so horrified with the whole thing I could not watch any of the interviews nor was I barely able to even look at him when they showed him on the news. Since then I've had no desire to read anything about him. When I heard about this graphic novel last year I was tempted because of the unique perspective. What was it like growing up as Dahmer's friend in jr/sr highschool then finding out he was a monster? But I couldn't bring myself to lift a somewhat self-imposed ban on the topic. Then one of my favourite blogging buddies, Joy, reviewed and recommended it. I knew if she liked it I'd be able to handle it. It is superb!

Derf tells how he knew Dahmer in grade school, jr & sr high. They lived in the same small town but it wasn't until highschool that they started to hang out. Derf's group of friends were outsiders themselves geek band kids, not with the cool kids, and somehow they adopted Dahmer into their group, as a sort of mascot. Dahmer acted out in class putting on a "spaztic" routine that became the centre focus of Derf's Dahmer group. It was teen-age boy goofing around stuff, probably hurt a lot of feelings, but these kinds of kids didn't really care. Derf tries to make sense of that time looking back at it now as an adult who knows what Dahlmer became. Dalmer is portrayed as fifteen-year-old Derf Backderf knew and saw him. A regular kid, but one with probably more than his fair share of problems, parents who didn't seem to care, that were wrapped up in the anger of their ending marriage. A guy with rumours circulating about him and dead animals, a freakishly large and muscular kid, one who acted like an epileptic having seizures, while mentally challenged and lisping at the same time. Dahmer's act. This was just his thing. Derf has sympathy for this kid he knew and went to school with. And he asks "where were the adults in all this? Did no one notice Dahmer needed some help?" Derf and his friends gradually pulled away from Dahmer because each in his own time became aware that Dahmer was scary ... dangerous scary. At this point as a reader we can sit and look back with Derf at the situation. Derf has sympathy for him; he knew the kid; maybe many of us can sympathise up to this point too. The rest of Dahmer's story did not have to happen if someone had cared or noticed or bothered to take positive action for the disturbed kid, Jeffrey Dahlmer. But no one did.

And so, both Derf and the reader accept reality. As an adult Dahmer is responsible for his own actions. He killed, tortured, mutilated and did despicable things. Here is where Derf makes it clear that this monster is no longer anyone he, the author, sympathizes with. With Dahmer's first kill he chose to continue doing so and the past cannot be blamed for his actions anymore. The author muses that Dahmer could have done many things to prevent further killings, turning himself in to the police or mental health facilities, killing himself, etc. There is a lot of thinking here for the reader to grasp how a child, someones highschool buddy end's up a monster of a serial killer.

I love Backderf's artwork. Dahmer always looks so uncomfortable in his own skin, whether he is sad, mad, embarrassed or just being plain creepy. I'm glad the book is done in b/w as I find these true crime novels work best in the graphic format without any colour. I am so pleased to have read this and I think I will read a book on Dahmer's case in the future now.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vanja petrovic
Saw it at library the other day and checked it out. Absolutely amazing--the author/artist was a member of the "Dahmer Fan Club" in high school where normal but "outsider" guys encouraged Dahmer's always weird antics--drinking all day in school, often acting out as a "spastic" (for enough beer) and totally ignored by school officials and teacher. Made me realize that could have been me unknowingly encouraging odd behavior by school outsiders--all schools have 4 or 5.Totally compelling. Can be read in a single night.Every school official, counselor and teacher needs to read it
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rory parle
"My Friend Dahmer" is an oddly moving account of Jeffery Dahmer's place in the social food chain in high school. I was ready to not like the story based on the drawing style alone, but the author's storytelling ability elevates this far beyond what I expected.

The thing that stood out for me is just how mundane Akron, Ohio was, and how otherwise normal Jeffery Dahmer's life was. We have all gone to school with a kid like Dahmer, who was quiet and unremarkable, and almost invisible. The author's friendship with Dahmer was tenuous, infiltrated by an unspecific unease. High school was a place of strategic social jockeying, and for awhile Jeffrey Dahmer was absorbed into a group of pals who valued him for his antics. Dahmer shows his friends glimpses of his psyche, like when he shows them jars of roadkill that he has been dissolving in acid (his dad was a chemist), or how he is able to manipulate people. However, many people have stories from their teenage years that are outrageous or unsettling, that happen as they are experimenting with limits, and very few of them grow up to be psychopaths or serial killers. Dahmer's family life was unsettled, with an over medicated mother (epileptic ?) in a disintegrating marriage.

The author has spread out the story chronologically, with sources ranging from his high school sketchbook, his memory and the accounts of other friends/students, as well as FBI interviews with Jeffery Dahmer to fill in the gaps. The portrait that emerges of the author is that he was a kid who was neither popular nor friendless, and kind as well as thoughtlessly cruel. His friendship with Jeffery is not particularly deep, but that is common in many high school friendships. He has a sense, looking back through time, of the intense secret psychological landscape that Jeffery Dahmer was trapped in. Jeffery was gay, which can be a massive, heartwrenching secret for teens everywhere. Jeffery Dahmer became obsessed with fantasies of dominance and control which became mixed up with necrophilic desires. It can take years or decades for people to come out of the closet, even now. Highschool in Akron, Ohio in the 1970's was not a hotbed of acceptance. Who could Dahmer have turned to to unburden himself of his heavy truths, who could have helped him ? He became a severe alcoholic, and went through the last year of school drunk to get through every day. Somehow this escaped detection by the faculty and his parents. His alcoholism alienated him from his friends, and Dahmer sunk lower on the social food chain.

Other reviewers have suggested that the trauma of the acrimony of his parent's divorce pushed Dahmer over the edge into madness. Dahmer's mother got a restraining order against his father, and secretly moved hundreds of miles away with his brother against her divorce settlement's conditions. Dahmer was left by himself (without his father knowing)in the family home for several months, which is when he committed his first murder and dismemberment. Dahmer's father is almost absent from the story, which may be because the author never encountered him. For me this raises questions about the Dahmer's marriage, including whether Dahmer's father had been abusive towards his wife and children ? Dahmer's brother grew up in the same household and did NOT become a serial killer, so this raises obvious questions about the nature v.s. nurture debate about people who become serial killers. Jeffery was a target for bullies, but from this account, it does not seem that he was terrorized/humilated by them on a daily basis, at least during his high school years.

Derf's account of his friendship with Jeffery Dahmer is very humane. The tone is honest and unflinching, and I have a clear sense of his confusion and regret in his role in this story. It is telling that when the story breaks about Jeffery Dahmer's crimes, that he is not the first classmate Derf guesses, but the second.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
iwanaries setyawan
I first read the shorter version of this strange graphic novel in about 2004 or so. I liked some of Derf's other works, namely Trashed and The City, both of which i thought were extremely funny with a slightly edgy, punk feel to them. I bought
My Friend Dahmer and was shocked by his tale about him knowing Jeffrey Dahmer in junior high and high school, before Dahmer became infamous for his hideous crimes. Back then, Dahmer and Derf (or Backderf) were both geeky and unpopular outcasts
although Derf at least had a circle of friends that he hung around with. Dahmer was a straight-up loner known for his bizarre behavior, like feigning cerebal palsy and collecting roadkill which he dissolved in jars of acid.

Derf makes it clear that his memories of Dahmer are not memories of a serial killer, but memories of a sad, creepy young man who was bullied by classmates and lost in a fog of teenage alcoholism. He felt badly for Dahmer as he watched him become more and more isolated and torn apart by his parents crumbling marriage, but he also sensed an aura of doom about this teenager that warned him away from getting too close.

This graphic novel is, in a way, very simple. It's a remembrance. Derf quietly articulates what he recalls about Jeffrey Dahmer and in the end and a strange thing happens. The reader finds awareness of the young killer has become dual. He was a monster. But he was also a person. This seems to disturb and upset a lot of people because they want to think of Jeffrey Dahmer as a terrible aberration and nothing more. Derf does evoke sympathy for Dahmer, make no mistake, and if the idea of that repulses and infuriates you, then you may not be a good candidate to read this book. However, by the end (for me at least) the overwhelming feeling I took away from this tale was revulsion and horror.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christine hair
This is the story of necrophiliac cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's high school years told from the perspective of John "Derf" Backderf who went to the same school as him and knew him a bit socially too. The book doesn't go beyond high school graduation but presumably most people coming to this book will know the horrific crimes Dahmer committed from age 18 onwards until he was finally caught and sent to prison where he was murdered by a fellow deranged inmate.

The book's tone presents Dahmer as a tragic figure whose unpleasant home life and repressed inner life led him to the dark places he would inhabit for his entire adult life. His father was distant and his mother suffered from seizures and was heavily medicated. Dahmer would mimic these seizures as well as his parents' interior decorator's multiple sclerosis which would make him a celebrity in high school, those exaggerated and cruel impressions becoming his trademark and gave him entry into Backderf's circle of friends.

Backderf uses various sources to go beyond his own experiences with Dahmer to give the reader a more detailed look at his teenage years. Dahmer's parents went through a brutal divorce with Dahmer unable to speak to them about the strange urges he was getting. He expressed these through dissolving animals in acid his father had (he was a pharmacist) and then later dissecting roadkill. As high school neared its end, Dahmer drank heavily to still the voices in his head until he was an alcoholic when he graduated, missing most of his classes to hang around the school premises, not being around his hateful parents and drinking himself into a numbing stupor. The desperation is tangible.

Backderf makes the case that no-one helped Dahmer out when he most needed it. No teacher at school cared beyond checking a cross next to his name, no counsellors were available, and Dahmer had no real close friends to turn to for help. His parents were emotionally and physically absent - at the time of his graduation, his father was living in a motel and his mother left Jeff in their home while she took his younger brother and moved to another state! Dahmer's isolation and increasing madness, no longer kept at bay by the alcohol he'd gotten used to, led him to act out his sick fantasies, unchecked. While the tone of the book shows Dahmer as a tragic figure, this only applies up until his first murder at age 18. Backderf no longer feels sympathy for the man after this, instead believing that the person was now gone and the monster had taken his place.

The book is an extraordinary story of a damaged and truly disturbed individual who would become a notorious symbol of human depravity and pure evil. Backderf tells the story well, illustrating it beautifully (his depictions of Dahmer's mother's seizures are truly unnerving), and creating a must-read book for all fans of true crime comics. "My Friend Dahmer" is a powerful and haunting read, made all the more compelling for knowing what this boy would do in later years. Easily one of the best comic books of the year.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
samer ismail
I was born in 1976, just before Dahmer graduated (in more ways than one), and I can remember going through my own high school existence with an "oddball" or two. You remember the one or two kids who were, "wired differently"? Didn’t you ever wonder how they would turn out after graduation?
In truth, I received this book as a gift from a dear friend (for research and insight) and didn't know exactly what to expect from a "graphic novel" about Jeffrey Dahmer, but I was very grateful and intrigued. This book immediately took me back to my years in high school. Though times were a little different in the 90's than in the 70's, there were a few stunning similarities. We now had rent-a-cops patrolling our campus, but kids still smoked cigarettes/weed and snuck alcohol onto campus, though I can’t say that any of them had the stones to carry a white Styrofoam cup filled with hard liquor while walking through the halls to their next class. CPS was getting decent funding by then and they were pretty active, if any kids showed up to class completely wasted, parents would have been notified and maybe reported.
Through the course of this book I remembered all the different ways those unfortunate few "oddballs" stood out from the rest of us. Those peculiar behaviors that my budding intuition still recognized as indicators that something was wrong. I remember that strange “feeling” that something was just not quite right with a couple of kids. I also began to recall the bully’s and their torments. But, mostly, I remembered how no one stood up and defended the “oddballs”. How many opportunities were there for me or a teacher to stop a bully in his/her tracks? It was such a strange nostalgia that settled around me as I read this book. I began wondering how the "oddballs" of my time were doing today. Had they committed any heinous crimes? Were any of them in jail? Prison? Dead? Or were they completely happy, "successful" by society's standards. Had they grown out of their “oddball-ness”?
The subject matter of this book isn't, in any way, taken lightly so don't let the term ‘graphic novel’ mislead you. Derf Backderf has used his craft to effectively show what it was like for him to go to school with an individual that will forever be recognized as one of America's most notorious serial killers.
Some reviewers of this book I think missed the point. They probably expected some kind of nail-biting “slasher-porn”. (As if there isn’t enough of that out there already.) I believe to truly appreciate this book, you have to go back and reflect on your own school life and remember those strange few kids that stood out as not quite right in the head. I realize how politically incorrect that statement is, but that is how we thought back then, too. We just can’t say it out loud now because someone might get offended. I guess maybe because there are screwed up kids today that show up to school with weapons, intent on murder.

Everyone already knows the horror story surrounding Jeffrey Dahmer. This book wasn't intended to "re-tell" those events in graphic detail. Derf Backderf didn’t bear witness to those events! This book isn't a surgical investigation into the psychology of Dahmer or serial killers or the friends/parents of serial killers. This book gives an account of what it was like growing up in the 70's and ‘knowing’ Jeff. Schools, students, police officers and parents were all different then. "Awareness" wasn't quite yet on the mass political agenda.
This is an account of, quite simply, “what was”. It is important to also note that it truly felt like the author avoided getting sucked into any kind of fabrication or invention of events, in order to make a buck off of the ‘Dahmer’ name. I applaud how real this book is despite the “graphic novel” format.
Also, I did very much enjoy that after the "graphic" portion on this book, the author then went a bit deeper (without depictions) into the timeline of events, including where his research came from when he couldn’t pull from his own memories or from his friends’, the members of the "Dahmer Fan Club".
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeanne mower
My Friend Dahmer is a very strange, unsettling book that redefines the boundaries of exactly what a graphic novel can be.

People aren't born being serial killers. They grow up, go to school, have friends, and undergo the same awkward teenage years that we all face. The most unsettling aspect of the whole business might not be the crimes themselves, horrific as they might be. The most unsettling aspect may be when we realize that the serial killer is in fact a human being. We then are forced to ask ourselves, "What is it exactly in this mix then that factors together to create a monster?" But a monster he is not, and that is the scariest part of the entire story.

It is easy for many to classify Dahmer as a "monster" or a "freak" and move on, but his friend author Derf Backderf knows better. Derf grew up with Dahmer and knew him to be intelligent with a tortured home life. Dahmer, though seen as a strange outsider, was well known at school and appeared in numerous yearbook photos with other students. His tenuous grip on reality gradually erodes, however, and he becomes increasingly fascinated with death. He eventually only appears drunk or "in character," an imitation of his own mother's medical seizures, in a vain attempt to hold on to some form of acceptance with his peers. The author uses his illustrations to show Dahmer not necessarily in a sympathetic light, but in a way that at least can be understood by the reader. Once the killings start, however, the author makes it clear that all bets are off.

My Friend Dahmer is a terrific book, exploring the dark recesses of the mind of a serial killer from a unique and deeply unsettling point of view. The author obviously took quite a bit of time on the project to get it right, and the effort shows. This book is an important work, and deserves a special place among the top echelon graphic novels.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lynne j
We never know what goes on in other people's heads -- we usually assume that their thoughts are like our own, but we can't know for sure. So other people are endlessly surprising us, positively and negatively, every day of our lives, and we keep rebuilding those mental models as quickly as we can to keep them as close to observed reality as possible.

But sometimes, someone turns out to be vastly less knowable and more alien than we ever guessed.

In the 1970s, John Backderf was friendly -- not quite "friends," but connected in that loose high school way -- with another boy of the same age, named Jeff Dahmer. And, years later, Backderf was a reporter and editorial cartoonist -- working then as simply "Derf" -- when the news of Dahmer's serial-killing streak finally came to light, more than a decade and seventeen deaths later. MY FRIEND DAHMER is the book Backderf created -- after several shorter stories, and one comic-book length version a decade ago -- to explain the Jeff Dahmer he knew and bear witness to that profoundly damaged young man at the moment when he still could have been helped. (And now he's using the credit "Derf Backderf," which sounds to me like the worst of both possibilities, but it's his name, and his career.)

MY FRIEND DAHMER starts with two short sections, setting the scene with a younger Dahmer dissolving roadkill animals in acid in a shack in the woods and being tormented and alone in middle school. But most of the book covers three years of high school, leading up to graduation -- as Backderf and his friends took on Dahmer as a sometimes friend, or, more often, as that weird kid who you can count on to do something outrageous to make everyone laugh. (Dahmer had a fake-cerebral-palsy act, which was either imitating a local interior designer or his own mother's seizures -- or perhaps both -- and this was hugely funny to teenage boys in the mid-70s.)

The called themselves "the Dahmer Club," but they were never really friendly with Dahmer -- he was too weird, too encased in his shell of behaviors at that point. Dahmer was also a full-blown alcoholic by senior year, carrying bottles of hard liquor around (unknown, at the time, to anyone else in the school) in a briefcase and drinking almost constantly. Dahmer was the "class freak" -- the weirdo who acts out, presumably for attention -- but not close to anyone.

Backderf has extensively researched Dahmer's life -- reading all of the many interviews and books, and re-interviewing his friends and schoolmates -- so MY FRIEND DAHMER isn't just "what I remember of that one kid who turned out bad;" Backderf tries to depict what was going on in Dahmer's head at the time. His family was dysfunctional in the best of times, and going through a messy divorce during his senior year -- and Dahmer was not just a still-closeted homosexual, but one whose primary erotic thrill came from imagining completely still bodies, dead or seemingly so. He heard voices in his head, urging him to kill -- and he drank to keep those voices as quiet as he could. But, finally, at the end of his senior year, his parents completely abandoned him -- his father had moved out months before, and then his mother secretly moved out of state with her younger son to return to her family -- and he was left, entirely alone, with only himself and what was in his head. And then, of course, he killed for the first time.

Backderf's point is that someone should have seen what Dahmer was becoming and stopped him; that he could have been helped before he turned into a killer. And a similar boy almost certainly couldn't go through the same progression today -- school campuses are locked more tightly, and obviously drunk students no longer tolerated if they don't cause trouble. But who can know?

Backderf's cartooning has gotten much stronger in recent years: his work used to be just a few small panels of lumpy people talking, but the larger pages of MY FRIEND DAHMER give him space for stronger storytelling, with strong transitions and well-chosen images. His figures are still entirely Derf: lumpy, lanky young men, all legs and arms and joints, with stringy hair and unfortunate clothes and long faces. He draws Dahmer's eyes as utterly still behind his glasses -- or, sometimes, not even showing at all -- a heavy gaze looking straight out at the reader and assessing him for whatever purposes.

Life gave Backderf amazing material for a graphic novel, but he had to actually do it. And he did: MY FRIEND DAHMER isn't impressive simply because Backderf knew and grew up with Dahmer, but because he's spent these last twenty years trying to figure out how he became Dahmer -- and if there was any way that could have been stopped.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
juan rodr guez
First, reading about the lives of serial killers is one of my guilty pleasures. On first read my impression was, just because you're friends with a serial killer for a few years growing up doesn't mean you have to write a graphic novel about it. But I have to say, this graphic novel flows very smoothly and reveals a lot about Jeffrey Dahmer's life before he became famous for being a cannibalistic serial killer.

It also gives us a glimpse into Jeffrey's home life. Dahmer's dad always says that Jeffrey had a normal childhood, but I'm not buying it. There was obviously something sinister going on the family dynamic at the Dahmer household and Backderf manages to portray a disharmonious family life of parents constantly arguing and threatening. (My theory is that Jeffrey's dad was an abuser and drove his wife crazy, but it really seems like both of Dahmer's parents had a bubble that wasn't level.

"My Friend Dahmer" also shows us another side of young Dahmer. He's an awkward teen who wants to fit in but doesn't. At one point he laughs at the expense of someone else's pain and Backderf saw the cruel potential in a Dahmer who had no empathy, and awkward social skills. And yet, Dahmer was able to BS his way into the White House in the 70's on a school field trip. Dahmer was complicated, Dahmer was made fun of, Dahmer's parents seem to have abandoned him, and the most powerful thing we learn is that Dahmer is human.

"My Friend Dahmer" by Derf Backderf is well-drawn and well-written. I read it in one evening in less than an hour and enjoyed it thoroughly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roxann davis
This is just an absolutely amazing book. I had read good reviews on this book, and i have to admit it was my morbid curiosity that made me buy it...but i got so much more from this book. About the way we treat each other, about helping others, about being there for each other.

It's hard to say this, but its true: Dahmer was NOT a monster. He was a human being. A human being who was crossed off many lists before he ever became a "monster". As the book put it, "the boy who didn't belong".

This book has an important message as to how we treat each other. This book is not Hollywood, it is not wrapped up in a quaint little half hour, there are no defining trigger moments that spin the wheels of fate. It is painfully real, and sad. As you read, you realize we have all had "Dahmers" in our life. Someone you could have reached out to, someone you saw hurting but did nothing, someone you could have been kind too but choose to be rude, snobbish or just make fun of.

A great book with great drawings. If you read this, you will be surprised at how much it opens your eyes to kindness and empathy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
macclint
I thought this was a fabulous book for a few reasons:

1) The story line flowed very well
2) The artwork fit the tone of subject matter
3) The notes section which provided a lot of RELIABLE information
and most important, and not frequently done:
4) Avoided the smutty side of it. The author included only the timeline in which he was personally involved and presented it without exploiting Jeffrey Dahmer.

Sometimes we forget that Jeffrey Dahmer was a person with feelings and (I'm sure) dreams and this book humanized him.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cordelia
For those of us who bemoan the dearth of originality in today's pop culture, Derf Backderf's graphic novel "My friend Dahmer" temporarily puts a grinding halt to the teeth gnashing. Having read a few of the reviews, I noticed that around half read it because they were comics enthusiasts; the rest, fans of true crime.
I haven't read a comic book (or 'graphic novel') in some 30 years, but the terrific writing and artwork from 1960's and 70's Marvel comics gave me lifelong respect. Lately I've been perusing the litany of serial killer books available, searching for something beyond the usual crimes & courtroom plot device.
"My Friend Dahmer" is certainly that. Backderf, the author and artist, went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer and knew him fairly well. It's clear that the serial-killer-to-be made an impact of some sort of Backderf's life; it's also obvious that the news of Dahmer's crimes jolted him tremendously, as it would have most of us in his situation. Thankfully, Backderf was able to put his feeling and memories on paper, and the result is funny, sad, scary, and very...real feeling.
I'm sure the book's creator faced some vocal critics, angry that the depraved murderer is made to look sympathetic at times. But if you pay attention, you can plainly tell Backderf has no interest in making apologies for Dahmer. Dahmer wasn't a crazed lunatic from birth-he slowly changed into one. And the author was right there on the perimeter of that depraved metamorphisis. His document is harrowing, fascinating fun.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bita b
Riveting and sad, My Friend Dahmer does not paint the picture of the more widely known Jeffrey Dahmer who murdered several men in highly publicized killings during the early late 80s and early 90s. Rather, it is a portrait of the same man many years earlier. A troubled teen from a broken home struggling with his sexuality while living in rural Ohio, while already showing clear signs ofnsubstance abuse.

The art is often stilted and posed, but despite this the final product is quite close to perfect. This is a book I often find myself musing over unexpectedly. The portrayal of a notorious murderer as a sympathetic young man is haunting and troubling. Well worth a read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica kwasniak
Backderf graduated high school the same year as Jeffrey Dahmer, and furthermore was one of the few people who hung out with him on a semi-regular basis. From the time of Dahmer's arrest, Backderf has been turning over his memories of that time in his mind, and this graphic novel is the result.

Although ostensibly about Jeffrey Dahmer's descent into madness/evil/whatever you want to call it, I found the most fascinating part to be Backderf's struggle to understand what happened and piece it together with what he saw at the time and what he found out later, and what, if any, role Backderf himself played in the whole thing. Admitting to yourself, much less the world, that you were friends with someone who ended up being a serial killer has got to make anybody squirm, but Backderf looks it right in the face and is uncompromisingly honest about his high school experience with the person he knew as "Jeff."

It's also interesting because you get an outside perspective on Dahmer's social life as a teenager -- to hear Dahmer talk about his experiences in school, it's clear he felt it was rather normal socially (ie he had friends, was relatively outgoing, has pleasant memories of hanging out with people), but this makes it clear just how little Dahmer was able to understand -- either for innate reasons or simply because he'd never experienced it -- just what a normal social life was or what it really meant to have friends. Even in the group that Dahmer thought of as his friends, he remained a peripheral figure, used for entertainment but ultimately not included in the deeper conversations and events that make up true friendships.

Get the e-version, as it has some extra notes/features/stories.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
barrie
Though I've been familiar with Derf's work for over a decade through his alt-weekly strip, I've never given it much thought. But *Mr Friend Dahmer* impressed me. Derf obviously lingered over the drawing and his work evokes a mood, time and place quite well. And the story rises above its lurid "I went to high school with a serial killer" hook. *Dahmer* is more about how we're all grouped together in high school and then our lives fork out in divergent paths.

However, I felt that Derf gave himself and his buddies a pass while essentially blaming the adults. Dahmer would later say interviews that he went out of his way to conceal his problems from the adults in his life, who had their own problems, like his parents' divorce. Derf and his friends, however, were fully aware of Dahmer's issues with loneliness and drugs and instead of reaching out to him, they turned him into their "mascot", a human prop for them to perform for them.

I don't mention that to assign blame, however. Derf's cruelty and indifference were nothing out of the ordinary. I can't help but feel that the work suffers from not confronting this element of Derf's interaction with Dahmer more squarely, however. More on how we treat each other would have given this story a stronger edge.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
burgess
This graphic novel is a disturbing masterpiece. Backderf's art style is perfectly creepy in it's telling of the tale not of Jeff Dahmer's murders, but instead of the backstory- his awkward high school years. It is more intensely chilling because we already know the ending and have to watch as he becomes unhinged. So many lost opportunities to intervene, so many adults that let him slip through the system without help. The story is eerily familiar to anyone that went to high school in the U.S. and knew weirdos and "psychos" in their public school.

The pacing of the story is perfect, all written from extensive research and most chillingly, from the author's own personal recollection of being in Dahmer's high school classes. Dahmer was the typical social outcast, but with a horrific ending. Don't we all know people like him?

Powerful, amazing reading. Fantastic artwork. Well researched.

A must read for graphic novel fans.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
di likes
This book is exactly why I keep picking up random graphic works to see what is going on out there in the land of people who draw books, instead of writing them -- every so often, I hit one that is completely brilliant, one that does what no number of words could do, one that simply captures the weird that exists in everyday scenes.....the artist here is not trying to do the definitive work on what makes a serial killer what he is - he's simply trying to recount what he saw of this strange tragic creature as he was growing up with him....the book ends up being brilliantly ambiguous precisely because it depicts in considerable detail what formed J Dahmer, and how all that specificity still does not "explain" Dahmer...that degree of ambiguity is left for the reader to bring to the story, the artist simply tells his story and leaves it for the reader to glean what he/she may. The critique of this book, that it does not answer all the questions about Dahmer, is precisely what makes it so great -- it is not trying to be definitive. And the less I say about the drawing, the better, because I understand so little of what Scott McCloud has taught us about "cartooning" -- but like Potter Stewart's comment on pornography, I can't define great drawing, but I know it when I see it, and this is IT. Get it, read it, in one sitting, and come away profoundly disturbed - it won't leave you untouched, which is perhaps the point of "art"....
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nick sheffield
This is probably the most powerful graphic novel I have ever read. I'm glad to have discovered (on the author's blog site) that this book is becoming required reading in many high schools. It's a highly disturbing (though it depicts no murders at all - it takes place before Dahmer became a murderer) depiction of a neglected, desperately lonely, and increasingly psychotic child who was ignored by his parents, friends, and teachers despite the obvious, and now text book, signs of stress, animal abuse, and depression connected with future murderers. America has a long history of ignoring the needs of the mentally disturbed, and we (and they) continue to pay the price.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
clint
This is a book that could have easily turned out opportunistic and tacky and exploitative if handled wrong. However this book is not at all. In addition, the author does a good job of not glorifying Dahmer in any way, even while showing sympathy for him. The book has far more research and meticulous notes than I expected it to have. There is a section recommending materials for the reader if they want to go deeper. What was impressive is that despite the book being very creepy and unsettling and disturbing, I couldn't put it down either. Even though I only planned to read maybe 50 pages a night until it was done, I ended up reading it in one sitting in one night because it was just that gripping. It was a well-written, well-drawn, highly informative read.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
grace street
Too creepy for me ?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rosalie
The artwork of the front cover beautifully symbolizes the overall message of the book: Everyone around Jeffrey Dahmer had their eyes closed; no one seemed to "see" what was happening.

MY FRIEND DAHMER brings to life the dark tale of Dahmer's adolescent years, as seen through the eyes of fellow classmate Derf Backderf. Through personal recollections, eye witness interviews, and public resources, Backderk traces a pivotal three year trajectory, from 1975 to the summer of 1978, in which Dahmer slowly morphed into the ghoul known the world over today.

Amazingly, Backderf successfully purveys a sense of empathy for the adolescent Dahmer. Throughout the book, Backderf gives the sense that, despite overt warning signs during those high school years, teachers and other prominent adults seemed oblivious to Dahmer's ever-worsening plight. As stated by Backderf in the preface, "[i]t's my belief that Dahmer didn't have to wind up a monster, that all those people didn't have to die horribly, if only the adults in his life hadn't been so inexplicably, unforgivably, incomprehensibly clueless and/or indifferent."

This is an engrossing graphic novel; once I stared reading, I didn't want to put in down. The creepiest part of all is the fact that, during my own developmental years, I saw similar instances of adult apathy and institutionalized student silence that allowed bad situations to flourish. Moreover, as is aptly pointed out on the front cover flap, most everyone comes to know at least one misfit adolescent who is similar to the young Jeffrey Dahmer; someone strange, oddly amusing, or even potentially dangerous. This is, in essence, a tragic story that could have happened anywhere in America.

Kudos to Mr. Backderf -- the painstaking research and the artistic endeavor that he collectively put forth in this book is impressive.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
bradschl
I was so excited to buy this book and if you download the sample its creepy, and great and makes you wanna buy it and then it all goes downhill, its all basic troubled teenage crap, arguing parents, getting drunk in school, being socially awkward. Aside from the animal part I did most that stuff. And it was all common knowledge unless you don't know much into Dahmer, I hear a lot of people complaining its a graphic novel I was actually excited at that part. But all disappointment, for people who don't know who or much about Dahmer maybe it'd better but I am very very disappointed wasting 11 dollars I get that's all his knowledge but he should've made that clear I the summary before you buy it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
zeinab badr
A trusted friend recommended My Friend Dahmer, and while for obvious reasons I was initially skeptical and leery, it's one of the best books I've read all year. Author Derf Backderf knew Jeff Dahmer in high school and this book is a narrative of his recollections. He obviously did his research and well as excavating his memory, and his cartoony yet extraordinarily expressive style brings the past to life. Against all expectations, it is not gory, morbid or at all exploitative.

Despite certain knowledge of the terrible crimes Dahmer will later commit, the terrible isolation of his youth is still haunting and heartbreaking. As Backderf says in his introduction, 'this a tragic tale, one that has lost none of its emotional power after two decades...Pity [Dahmer], but don't empathize with him.'"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nermeen
I got this Friday and read it almost in one sitting on Saturday. I've been interested in Dahmer's life for a while, because he seems like his life was so normal and then he went on to commit such horrors. I've read Dahmer's father's book and others about his crimes and never can I seem to get a handle on how he became capable of the brutal and strange murders he committed.

I love what the author/illustrator did with this book. He has an insight into Jeff Dahmer that no one else has shared before - probably as much as anyone he saw that turning point from him as a functioning person to someone who was completely lost. He roots the story in the time period, which makes it easier to understand how JD was able to escape adult supervision. I like how he captures the period of the 70's, the way kids were more left on their own, the dangers everyone just accepted but also the freedom. His material, coming from his own memories and those of other students and teachers is unique. The notes at the end show the author's commitment both to accuracy and storytelling.

The book is well drawn, the story told so concisely. The graphics are at times chilling. I'm not a big graphics novel fan - my only other read has been Maus - but this book I am sharing with friends and re-reading again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mark melton
BOOK 81 - [My Friend Dahmer] by 

This is a graphic novel by a man who went to school with the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.  There is really pretty minimal information about Dahmer and his family, as the story focused on the author's experience in high school of his interactions with Dahmer and others.  Dahmer of course comes across as a misfit and students aren't very nice to him, but there is no bullying as we think about it today.  Although there was some predictive behavior exhibited by Dahmer, especially involving animal abuse, perhaps the story was more that no one seemed to notice this boy.   He seemed almost invisible.

It seems to me that this book was more a way for the author to do some processing himself about his own experience.  He appeared to be wrestling with how it could have all seemed so normal; how could he have known a serial killer and hung out with him and not realized it?  And there really was no answer.

I've been investigating graphic novels, memoirs, etc. and am trying to look at a wide variety of them as far as topics go.  Interesting and worth a quick read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
arianna
A great book that is excellently crafted and brilliantly blends humor with the horrific action of Dahmer.

It also, interestingly, provides an element of understanding behind Dahmer. Not so much in sympathy behind killing people, but in that had his environment been different, it could have helped Dahmer overcome these urges instead of fueling them.

Backderf also does a great job of providing sources that blend with his own experiences to create an accurate and linear story. It's worth a read for sure.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brooke everett
An interesting peer into the early life of Jeff Dahmer and his change from an awkward kid into a tortured young adult. Beckderf does a great job of normalizing Jeff's story, showing how the progression happened without glorifying or demeaning young Dahmer. It brings up questions of what could have been done to save Dahmer from himself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
zankar
This book is a strange read. It's frightening, not because of what's on the page, but because your mind is constantly working to connect the dots between the Jeffrey Dahmer in the story and the serial killer, three standard deviations from the mean, that we know from the media.

The illustrations are engaging, the dialogue rings true, and the notes indicate the story is grounded in considerable research in addition to Backderf's personal memories.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
smcnamara
The author/illustrator's style is common-sensical and reminiscent of R. Crumb's self-reflection on youth and his own brother's descent into madness (Crumb has a blurb on the book, too.) I read it in one sitting. Since it tells a story with some points and an obvious implied end, some may prefer it to Crumb's occasional meandering. I find the style irresistible and weirdly poignant.

The story captures the young, perpetually-drunk Dahmer as the disturbing buffoon and vaguely-liked weirdo within a small group of high school friends. His odd personality could at least make him a goofy mascot for goofy teenagers, some of whom deliberately try to shoehorn him into every yearbook photo as a kind of prank. The kids' attitude seems to be "That Dahmer's crazy!", but in a good way, at first--until he gets too awkwardly weird. Larger emotional truths about the disjointed sociopathy of modern civilization and youth ("and then nobody talked to anyone else ever again") are certainly tapped into.

His early animal-killing is explored and presented as the friends experienced it. Most arresting is the unsentimental view of adolescence, and the "tragic" figure of Dahmer himself, a sort of ghost who was probably at his happiest during these years, even as he was sleepwalking through school in an alcoholic fog.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura stearn
Compelling and tragic, that is the only way I can describe My Friend Dahmer. This was an interesting read. It was definitely one of those books that I could not put down once I started it. The author gives readers a unique look at the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer. We get to see him from his classmate's perspectives. The book shows us Dahmer the high school kid and it is a truly sad story, one that portrays his descent from disturbed youth to the serial killer he eventually becomes. That's the tragic part, no one realized the problems he had. It all went unnoticed and so many lives were lost.So many families destroyed by his actions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nikolay
Not knowing who Jeff Dahmer was at all made this story all the better. My only hesitation as i started to read was concern over the cultural tendency, that is reflected in art, to wallow in unpalatable violence in a mindless way. There was none of that; at the same time no details were excluded. Remarkable. Also remarkable is the fact that much research was done, on top of personal acquaintance with the subject, and yet level headed perspective prevailed. There is no question in my mind that had i the resources to completely support the artist Derf Backderf i would. IF there is a tragedy here, it is that Backderf us not a full time artist.

On a more personal note, i feel the real tragedy portrayed in the novel is that of the alter-abled interior decorator and the way he is picked on by the adolescents. To me, Dahmer is simply the just result of the energy we put out is a people, an unbearable due being paid. What is upsetting is the way people lash out at those who are different (of course this is also the result of energy put in). Humans are the least diverse mammal species. I am very concerned at the relative lack of diversity.

Lastly, Backderf's honest portrayal of himself shines as a credit to human integrity. He could of cast himself in a more flattering light, but instead chose to be real. I don't know anyone who didn't do atrocious things as an adolescent; but i know many who won't admit it; and only very few who are willing to admit it publicly (unless forced). Thank you keeping it real Derf!

Aloha, RO
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
william allen
What makes this graphic narrative so disturbing is not the nature of Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes—the book covers Dahmer’s adolescence, the period that preceded his first homicide, which began his killing spree—but the gruesome implications of Backderf’s illustrations and the accompanying narrative. As he tries to contextualize Dahmer’s perversion within suburban Midwestern culture, Backderf finds himself returning to the same question—the question that makes Dahmer a tragic figure: why didn’t any of the adults in Dahmer’s life pay attention to the many signs that he was developing into a serial killer? Backderf recreates, to the best of his ability, the story of Dahmer’s—and his own— adolescence as they grew up and attended high school together. Backderf does not excuse himself from his own scrutiny. He was, however, just a teenager like Dahmer. As Backderf himself asserts, right up until the time he begins killing, Dahmer’s story is tragic, and the adults in his life are largely responsible for permitting Dahmer’s mental illness and perversion to escalate into a bizarre explosion of torture, murder, and cannibalism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rodney hunt
So good, it only took me a few hours to read the whole thing. Great artwork, great narration. Absolutely fascinating book about Jeffery Dahmer as remembered by people who knew him. Completely recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
josh hager
I read this all in one sitting last night and it was riveting. Great, drawings in a "naive" style which is nevertheless very well thought out and designed, and superb storytelling that is as good as anything I've read since Capote's "In Cold Blood." This artist actually knew Dahmer in his formative years and this is a great set of observations. I am fascinated with weird, sick stuff anyway, but I leaned so much more about Dahmer from this than I have from any other source. I knew kids like Dahmer when I was in school, and this book really evokes a 1970s small town atmosphere that I fully recognize as genuine. Slightly perfervid prose when understatement would have been more sophisticated, but even that approach makes it seem more of an eyewitness account.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
binky
I love this book. I have always been intrigued by Jeffrey Dahmer after reading a book about him written by his father. I read this book in one sitting, because it was just so interesting, disturbing, and emotional. It makes Jeff into a real person and not just the monster he was portrayed as. I actually felt sorry for him, because of the way he grew up. Seems nobody was interested in Jeff, not even his own family. Derf does a great job of portraying his lonely and basically invisible friend as someone who yearned to fit in but just couldn't do it. Although the book is done in a very serious tone, there are a few spots that I had to laugh about, like Jeff's performance at the mall. One forgets that at one time, Jeffrey was once just a lonely kid longing to fit in. Derf shows us Jeff's human side, lonely as it was, and he did a great job.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
janice janicu
I'm not sure how I feel about this book, which is why I gave it three stars. On the one hand, I give Derf Backderf a lot of credit for writing it. He provides a perspective about Jeffrey Dahmer that few people would be able to, i.e., what Dahmer was like in public school, what certain people thought of him, and what circumstances in Dahmer's life might have led him to become the monster he did. Backderf is a talented artist and a relatively honest author; his portrayal of his own "role" in Dahmer's young life is not a particularly positive one, and many writers might have glossed over some (if not most or all) of this negativity. Nevertheless, this relative honesty is what causes me to hesitate to give the book more stars. To my mind, Backderf and his three buddies (the book's "Dahmer Fan Club") were unequivocal bullies. In fact, they were the worst kind of bully - those that appear to "like" their victims, or at least tolerate them, in order to more easily exploit the victim's weaknesses (desire for attention, friendship, whatever) for their own amusement. Therefore, in addition to absent/uncaring/inattentive parents and teachers, I think Backderf should have addressed in more depth one more possible "cause" of Dahmer's depravity and evil nature - the deplorable treatment he received from his so-called "friends" like Backderf. Interesting that Backderf does not put the word "Friend" in the title in quotes . . .
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brian sierer
This was a gift for a very close friend who studies serial killers and behaviors. Also, teaches forensic science. She loves the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sandip
A semi-autobiographic work of the author's recollections of growing up with Jeffrey Dahmer through his formative years (Junior High through High School). On the surface this can be read entirely as a tale of teenage alienation and the misery of being an outcast within the confines of a 1970's suburban high school but with knowledge of Dahmer's eventual metamorphosis into a true monster the road to depravity takes on a larger and more disturbing gravitas.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
josabeth comandante
First off, let me just say that I couldn't put this book down. It was both fascinating and disturbing and fulfilled that strange curiosity that comes up whenever you read an account of someone so disturbed that they engage in the most heinous acts imaginable. How could they be that way? What must go wrong inside of them to allow them to do such things? And what were they like as teenagers? Well, that last question may not be typical, and it was only after reading the premise of the book that I really thought about it. Would there be signs at that age? What is the reaction of people close to such psychopaths to learn about the reality that lies behind the mask of sanity?

Well, in that department, My Friend Dahmer delivers. There's plenty an anecdote to inspire nervous laughter, wide-eyed disbelief, and stunned disappointment at all the missed opportunities that might have prevented such a despicable spree of murder. Dahmer's antics in high school were odd, to say the least, and betrayed very early on a remarkable lack of empathy and capacity for manipulation, as well as the growth of the necrophiliac desires that would prompt his many murders.

But I think it's in Dahmer's capacity for manipulation that the book suffers. It seems to me that even with the benefit of hindsight, Backderf might be buy into Dahmer's story of himself a tad too much. Backderf (but he's not the only one) presents what he believes to be the motivation and psychological history that led to the man Dahmer became: a broken home, absent parents, strange and shameful desires. It's a story that inspires pity (but not necessarily compassion, as Backderf himself writes). But is it the truth? After all the reading I've done on psychopathy and character disorders, I highly doubt it. The only 'witness' we have for what was really going on in Dahmer's mind during all these events is Dahmer himself, and psychopaths are experts at presenting themselves in a sympathetic light, no matter what degree of depravity they have sunk to. It's called impression management and it has one goal: to convince the person listening that the psychopath really isn't that different from you or me. It's a cover story to keep someone from reaching the conclusion that in reality, this person is a human predator, with absolutely no conscience or remorse. If you watch the clips of interviews with Dahmer before he was murdered in prison, you can see it in action: the way Dahmer uses the interviewer's questions and subtle suggestions to both admit what he can't reasonably deny, but frame it in such a way that it's not quite as bad as all that. He leaves the listener to fill int he blanks.

This problem about the way we interpret the words of psychopaths, and all the other manipulation techniques they use, is discussed at length in George Simon's book Character Disturbance: the phenomenon of our age, which I'll be reviewing soon. So, if you want a bit more insight into the minds of people like Dahmer, read that one. It makes a good companion to My Friend Dahmer, which despite its flaws, was still pretty damn good.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joe zeidner
One of the first graphic novels I read, I really enjoyed the art style and the story telling.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elizabeth hiatt
"My Friend Dahmer" is the fascinating story of what it was like to be Jeff Dahmer's classmate in High School. As you can imagine, Jeff was a strange kid--but not the strangest.

Derf tells this story with tremendous care, and insight, informed by deep research. He focuses on details that coalesce into a compelling and intimate view of a very particular time, place, and situation, without failing to ask the big questions: Where were the adults in Jeff's life? How could they have not known he was in trouble? Why didn't they try to do something?

Derf's portrayal of adolescent life in a small midwestern town in the late 70s is right on, and his drawing style makes the portrayal practically irresistible. He tells a fascinating story, highlights it with his sharp critical wit (you may know it from his weekly strip "The City"), and mines it for the added depth afforded by the long format graphic novel, all to excellent effect. It's one hell of a book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
miranda stockton
Of all the manga, graphic novels, novellas, or pretty much illustrated books I have read (I am very VERY into manga, so this is a lot coming from me) this is probably top two. In terms of just graphic novels, however, this wins number one by a landslide. Backderf was incredibly skillful the way he went about telling the story. I have read several reviews about the way Backderf's primary focus on his own perspective flawed the story, well, I very strongly disagree. Had he told the story solely or even slightly more so from Dahmer's perspective, it would not have been worth the amazing read. It captivates; the way he balances the story between himself and Dahmer. While ingeniously telling Dahmer's adolescent story it reflects perfectly the way he was looked upon by his peers, which makes it not only more interesting, but realistic. It creates, for lack of a better term, much better "character development" among everyone in the story. It was also quite interesting to hear about his reactions as he progressed through the story, about how this "nobody" from high school he was FRIENDS with became one of the world's most infamous monsters!

Backderf was amazing in manipulating the way you feel about Dahmer. While he painted the serial killer's story in a rather sad light, making you feel quite sympathetic towards him, he very skillfully and effectively made you aware he was a monster not to feel any remorse over. The art is gruesome and beautiful; an ugly style with a wonderful purpose. The story's very dark, slimy feeling entraps you while reading it, yet it retains enough atmosphere so as not to suffocate.

I literally could not stop myself from turning each page until the story was over. Unlike most graphic novels or manga, this book has no "dry spells". None at all! It was incredible juicy and interesting the whole way through, would recommend to anyone with a love for dark literature; actually, just ANYONE for that matter!

I give this book a thousand stars out of five. While many disagree, I could not find one flaw. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
luke rettele
This is a phenomenal work of art that I couldn't put down once I opened it. Each scene is so rich with meaning that I relished observing and reading every single one of them. This graphic memoir is about the high school experience of one of Jeffrey Dahmer's high school classmates. It is not about the murders themselves. Fantastic book!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
marie france
I didn't realize this was a COMIC BOOK. Maybe it will be a good "read" but I am seriously disappointed I bought a comic book. I thought this would be a good read based on all the reviews (and I read a few of them.) I surely missed the part where it was a comic book and am disappointed I bought this. I wanted a real book and not a bunch of drawings. =(
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
lix hewett
It's just ok. Artwork was cool but doesn't seem like Dahmer was the author's "friend" or even close enough to know any other personal details other than what's already been said on dozens of documentaries including the 1 hour A&E special. Don't want to be too negative but it felt exploitive to me personally
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
saudia
liked the story but the pictures were hard to follow especially on a phone or kondle
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynne morris
An interesting glimpse into a murderer's early life
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
victoria
This was a great graphic novel on the order of Maus. I could not put the book down and read it at one sitting. It's a fascinating indictment of society in general that such a disturbed young man was not given the help he needed before turning into the full on monster he became.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
traci
People should read the book, My Friend Dahmer, because it always keeps the reader interested. Every page of the book always leaves you wanting to read the next page. Derf Backderf described the challenges Jeffrey Had to go through and how he reacted to those problems. Some of the things that Jeffrey did in the story and the way he reacted to them were very gross and disturbing. This book keeps you wondering why Jeffrey Dahmer’s friends did not notice that he was soon going to do something wrong.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
miseleigh
My boyfriend bought me this book for our anniversary, knowing I was a serial killer junkie. This is honestly one of my favorite books ever! I read all of it in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down! Would definitely recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sumit
People seeking blood and gore shouldn't buy this book. People who are interested in crime - specifically, in the origins of crime, will find it extremely interesting. Thoroughly researched and impressively illustrated, this graphic novel explores Dahmer's history from junior high school up until just after the end of high school, when he committed his first murder. Some surprising facts are unearthed here...such as the fact that Dahmer, during one of his last periods of normalcy, was able to arrange a meeting with Walter Mondale while on a school trip to Washington, D.C. I am a fan of Derf's work, even though this is a departure from his usual style of humorous storytelling, but I found the book nonetheless to be extremely captivating and I in fact, read the whole thing in one sitting. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
camille
I really enjoyed this book. I finished it in one night because it was pretty cool. Very easy to read and visualize. I felt the emotions in this book and the drawings were great! The only thing i wish is that it had actually footage of his crimes after high school but this boom gives you very cute illustrations and details on why he ended up the way he is.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
meggie patterson
This book is not memorable.

I finished it in an hour, with a solid attempt at appreciating the lackluster artwork. The pages are extremely thick, leading one to think that it contains much more content than it actually does. It's short. Strangely enough, it's also redundant.

I expected the author to present some insight into Dahmer's childhood/teenage years. However, his childhood was exactly what you would have guessed, and the author provides little about Dahmer's life. Just the repetitious "We all ostracized him. He killed some animals in the woods (which is never really shown). He almost killed people (and stops the story as soon as he actually does). He drank a lot. His parents ostracized him." But it was the same thing over and over. May as well have reused the tiles. And it was presented in such a boring manner. You're not supposed to get bored in less than 200 pages of a comic book about a serial killer, easily read in an hour. I was left with many questions, including: "Did the author even know anything about him?" and "Is this the best person to have written this book?"

I didn't learn anything from this book, I wasn't entertained by this book, I wasn't appreciative of the art or form of this book, and nothing stands out in my mind. Every time I've read a book, I've felt inclined to turn to a friend and say, "Hey did you know..." But this book does not leave me with that inclination. You will learn zip about the Dahmer case, the Dahmer psyche, the Dahmer childhood, other than what you may have assumed. The first paragraph of the Jeffrey Dahmer Wikipedia page can certainly provide more info and entertainment.

In the prologue, the author "toots his own horn" about the quality of his artwork and about the extensive research that went into writing this book. Upon completion, these statements were laughable. In the epilogue, he cites his sources for many of the moments in the book. But they were stupid moments that had little impact on the creation of a story. He had to do research to present a moment where Dahmer opens up the library door and shouts the librarian's name? And cite it? What a waste of time. He could have made up that trite little moment, just like the other trite moments depicted throughout. These moments did not aid in the development in the story or the character. It was senseless redundancy.

The author seems to have a bit of underlying guilt for ostracizing Dahmer. The book seems to be a bit of "ventilation" or cleansing of that guilt- Something that could have been potentially developed. Maybe that's the better story here? I think if the Dahmer case was your entire life, if you knew him, if the moment was "shocking" rather than just "messed up and twisted" than you'd find this book essential. Otherwise, take a pass on this one. I'll be selling mine.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mar a
I love reading books about psychopaths and psychopathology but this graphic novel shows the beginnings of how a seemingless, mundane existence, which can describe many people's high school experiences, can become the grounds for psychosis and eventual sociopathy in an individual. Descriptive of small behaviors and nuances that are lost in crimes books-it is refreshing, interesting, and worth the read, and the purchase. The art alone is so descriptive, the words, just add to the artist's messages. I plan to read his others works.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
india
I read this book since I have read lots of true crime books.

The comic is illustrated great but the biographical information found in the comic is lacking and the book is not really about Jeffery Dahmer.

This book focused way too much on the author and his friends, than it did Jeffery Dahmer. What was said about Dahmer was common knowledge about him like how he killed a dog, drank way too much, and apparently first killed someone just after he graduated college. We learn more about Dahmer's mother very briefly, than we do about Dahmer's cold and uncaring father Lionel or about Jeffery Dahmer himself. The book mainly focuses on Dahmer's peers who he attended and graduated highschool with.

There are better books out there about Dahmer or you could just watch a documentary on youtube, and you would learn a lot more than you would by reading this comic-book. I did not pay for this book since my local library had a copy of it. However I did like the illustrations in the book, and I just wish that the author of the comic John Backderf had actually focused more on Dahmer instead of himself and his friends when illustrating and writing this comic book. The author John Backderf even admits that he and his friends from highschool were not really even actually really friends with Dahmer.

I'm glad I did not pay for this book at all as my local library had a copy of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
claudius
I read this in one sitting and it was well worth it, not your typical graphic novel. It was sad, disturbing, at times a little funny, but very cool. I basically grew up in this area and it was also interesting to see drawings and references to places I frequented as a kid/teen. Very intriguing to see how Jeffery was viewed by his "friends" in high school and how he came to be the monster he was. And as the author stated in the book, where were the adults to pay attention to warning signs that he was to become what he became, let alone his parents who were too wrapped up in their own marital problems to care or even notice what Jeffrey was going through. Maybe had someone intervened, his atrocities could have been somewhat avoided. Or at least stopped after his first killing in Ohio, when moronic cops let him go w/ a dead dismembered body in his car. Who knows, maybe he never could have been saved but either way, this graphic novel was a very intriguing look into his formative years leading up to what he turned into and why. Very well researched also, not to mention the true stories from the author's interactions w Jeffrey as a kid/ teenager. GREAT READ!!! Highly recommend if this subject is your cup of tea, or even if it's not, it's worth the read.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jeff munnis
So disappointed to spend my money on a book written through comics. It took an hour or so to read this book. No insight provided in this book. Bizarre and so disappointing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
casey rock
This has to be the greatest Graphic Novel, albeit non-fiction, ever and it should have gotten every comic and book award ever. It is a masterpiece. Surprisingly its written in as good taste as you can possibly make this story. There were times I almost choked laughing, feeling almost ashamed for it, as the truth is stranger than fiction. The art is incredible as is writing.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mckayle
Big purchasing mistake on my part.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
nancy barnes
Not what iexpected
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lejon johnson
I love this book. This definitely gives you another a different perspective of Dahmer. The art is great! Great story, great art, and great read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ummi
This is a must read whether you have ever read a graphic novel or not! A frightful look into the psyche of a serial killer. It spirals into a terrible twist turn that parallels the actual life of the killer in which the book is named after.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
natalie senderowicz
I thought it was very interesting and I love the comic drawing style.
I just wish the pictures were in color, but besides that, very cool and also funny at times.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tavie
Great read.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
michelle cusolito
It's not really what you expect and a lot of parts are boring. Some of it has got to be assumptions on the author's part. Over hyped, over priced, I'd avoid it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shelly sexton
very well done
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nutmeg2010
The book makes you understand how he became a monster! I didn't give it five stars cause sometimes I wish he would of went into more detail but I still think this is a pretty good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vanessa baish
A sad, but necessary story. A view of a level of American strata that needs to be known.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
noemi mendez
Lackluster imitation of better artists
Poorly developed characters
Douche from Dahmer's home town trying to make a dollar off tragedy
It should be called "I didn't really know Dahmer", but that wouldn't make money off people dying.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
azin
I really wanted to like this book. I thought it would be good since the topic of the story is a very interesting one. However, the book gave hardly any insight into Dahmer. The author of the book wasn't even really friends with him. He was just interested in his behavior and pretty much only used him as a source of entertainment. I really felt like I got nothing out of the book. While it was short, it was a waste of time to read. I would have learned 10x the information by simply googling him. I think the title is very misleading as Backderf and his friends were horrible to Dahmer and now, he's using that "friendship" as a way to make money.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
stine
This book satisfies my voyeurism by describing what Dahmer was like in high school, from the perspective of someone who was close to him (that is, as close as his peers could get). I have already learned quite a bit about Dahmer from YouTube videos and web sites; this book adds an additional glimpse into his early life.

But I find the book very lacking in psychological insight. If you're looking for "the making of a psychopath" you'd be disappointed, as one of the book-jacket reviewers said.

The author kept asking "where are the adults to prevent this tragedy?" as if they could clearly see him becoming a serial killer, but at the same time the book also repeatedly indicated that there was no clear sign that he would become what he turned out to be. So it is a contradiction.

Actually I have my own theory about Dahmer: I think his mom was an attractive woman who divorced his dad for some other men (Hispanic / black types) and also she chose to have custody of his brother, not him. So he harbored resentment towards those kind of men (my speculation).

The book's artwork is very nice and unique, but Dahmer's mom was drawn as someone rather unattractive.

The book just tells you that Dahmer had urges to have sex with corpses from an early age, without offering an explanation.

Overall I still think this is a nice book for the additional information it provides...
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bookwormwithgoggles
On the back of the book, Chuck Klosterman described My Friend Dahmer as "not just a heavy story about a disturbing teenager to quench your dark little desires. It 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."

But this book is almost precisely the opposite of what Klosterman described:

* "A means for feeling sympathy toward those who don't seem to deserve it": The author outwardly contradicts this as early as the third page, saying that Dahmer was a "monster" (the classic term to dismiss someone as inhuman) and a "twisted wretch." "Pity him," Derf says, "but don't empathize with him." Forget sympathy, the author doesn't even want us to *empathize.*

* "A cogent explanation as to why terrible things happen": No cogent explanation exists. Most of this book is a flailing attempt to fight that uncomfortable truth. There is a complex reality to Dahmer's case that cannot be explained with a sentence or with a diagnosis. Dahmer was weird, but not even the weirdest kid at his rural Ohio high school. He witnessed some disturbing things, but not anything more disturbing than his parents' heated arguments or his mother having a seizure. The author grapples for explanations and evidence, but the uncomfortable truth is that the same piecemeal evidence could be thrown together in a book about almost any of us. The truth is complex, and the truth is uncomfortable precisely because of how "normal" and "human" Dahmer was, but Backderf desperately wants to find a simple, comfortable story that makes Dahmer appear inhuman and monstrous.

* "What it means to be friends with someone you don't really like": The author admits that Dahmer was not a friend but a mascot. Backderf was amused by Dahmer's "spaz freak" performances, but had no interest in him as a human being. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe Backderf as a bully than a friend. Backderf served as president of the "Dahmer Fan Club," which was less a fan club than a group of guys who exploited Dahmer's goofy qualities for their own amusement.

Backderf's account suggests that Dahmer was perfectly incapable of normal human conversation, that he was clinging to a faint thread of sanity, and that his only means of engaging in social activity was to put on a spaz freak show. But if you look up any of the interviews with Dahmer, you will find that he was almost precisely the opposite of what Backderf describes. Dahmer was articulate, sensitive, and intelligent. He was, in short, a human. That seems to be a truth too uncomfortable for Backderf to acknowledge.

---

For something that delivers what Chuck Klosterman describes, see Into the Abyss or Standard Operating Procedure.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bill pitcher
The subject matter is interesting and almost taboo, so it's cool to like something like this book. Very edgy. Super cult-classic. Any counter-culture hipster would love this book. That's why I think the book is selling (because it can't be turning profit with its provocative content (sarcasm)).

Anyways, The graphic novel is superficially interesting and beyond thinking about the socio/psychological aspects of Dahmer, it holds little value. I wasn't inspired or creeped out, but at least the book managed to amuse me for close to an hour. The artwork is cool and the presentation is nice, but the book as a narrative simply is not provocative. I thought the whole thing was bland. It made me feel like how Jeffrey Dahmer must've felt in high school lol. Emotionless. Oh, God! Im not becoming a serial killer now, am I!??
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
matthew hancock
You have to like the Cartoon format in order to enjoy this book. I did not
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
patty sagucio
Did not like this book at all. Sorry I didn't know it was a comic book. Not into those.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
juli simon thomas
I expected much more from this book, but felt a little bit cheated. I felt as if Backderf glossed over things he should have went into more detail about, but included things he could have easily excluded. I would have liked to see an actual comic about how Dahmer got caught or at least a couple strips included on the things Dahmer did besides murder (like exposing himself to two young boys, resulting in him registering as a sex offender). Maybe even a little bit about some of his murders. Instead, he kind of talked about them in the glossary at the end. I ended up buying the book one day, reading it the next, and then selling it to someone else the day after. So I was a little dissapointed in the book altogether. I didn't hate reading it - it was interesting; I surely don't regret it, but I definitely wouldn't recommend buying it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
tracy albers
Missed the fact that this is a graphic novel (ie cartoons). Was looking for a more detailed text for good reading.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
nathan pearson
I have read many a book about serial killers, and loads of graphic novels, and my "favourite" serial killer probably is Jeffrey Dahmer, which is why I had such a hard time with this book.

The author tried to explain Dahmer, and to plainly describe what Dahmer was like in school; at this, I have to say it seems like he is telling the truth. I mean, Dahmer was, judging from a lot of accounts that I have read from over the years, quite an invisible character, until he decided to become a spaz, a class clown, the Peter Sellers of the school, so to speak, where he was no longer himself but indistinguishable from a made-up character.

The problems I have with this book are legion, but based on two things:

1. The author describes Dahmer as a "MONSTER" and continually falls into a trap where he somehow decides that Dahmer wasn't a human being, but keeps describing him as though he's a Boris Karloff monster, á la The Crypt Keeper; this never happens in great non-fiction

2. The author makes claims that he has no real basis for, e.g. how Dahmer "must have felt" at night, or during other points in time

Still, it's interesting to get more of a feel of Joyce and Lionel Dahmer's relationship; these are Jeffrey's parents, and their disintegrating marriage is interesting to know more of.

All in all: useful if you're a real Dahmer fan, but please, sift through the unknown and all the camp theatric ploys used here.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kim forsythe
This was my first graphic novel and I guess maybe I just don't get it. Graphic novels have never interested me (I've never even cracked one open), but when I saw the topic of this one, I immediately purchased it. I'm fascinated with what makes a serial killer and based on the reviews of this book, I thought I was going to get a unique perspective on what made Dahmer who he was. What I found instead was an extremely piecemeal and elementary delivery of fairly inconsequential memories and accounts. There wasn't one thing in the book that stood out at me as being overly tragic or surprising. Sure, it sounds like he had a rough life and an unfortunate upbringing...but so have a lot of people and not all of them become serial killers.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
stefani nolet
Great art. Great potential. Horrible storytelling. Derf managed to Derf this one up by forgetting that the most important character in this story is Dahmer and not himself.

The author keeps the audience and himself at a "safe" distance by constantly re-asserting that Dahmer is an inhumane monster. "Nobody could know the evil deeds he was about to commit... where we're the parents!" This constant, soft-bellied editorializing manages to suck the heart out of what would otherwise have been a truly great read.

To that end, the book deserves more like 3 stars than 1, but I was so disappointed by the pandering approach that it seemed only appropriate to warn others of the author's flaccid attempts to justify his not so thinly veiled issues with exploiting the story of an apparent "friend" he knew in high school. In fact a true exploration of that very subject would be quite interesting, as it would feel honest and bold. Whereas the work in question feels more like getting jerked off by your mom.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
victoria reinhard
Jeffrey Dahmer is a product of the religion decay and the breakdown of the family. If he were alive he would be a liberal. If you love freedom and traditional conservative values this will be a horror story to you.
Please Rate My Friend Dahmer
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