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Book review: My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf

September 15, 2012

Today’s graphic novel was written by a boyhood friend of Jeffrey Dahmer. It does a brilliant job of dissecting exactly what influences turned him into the cannibalistic serial killer he became. The theory of the book is that someone should have noticed his degeneration and intervened.

Unfortunately, the reality is that lots of teenagers are weird, angry, socially estranged and awkward. While hindsight may be 20/20 it is revealing that the author guessed that a classmate of Dahmer’s would actually be most likely to be a serial killer. A lot of people fit the general profile. Only a few allow themselves to give in to their madness and do it. Unfortunately, even the most caring societies would have difficulty recognizing those people and stopping them in time.

The good news is that no student today could conceivably get away with being as abnormal as Jeffrey Dahmer in the specific way he was. He would go to school and hang out on the school grounds drinking hard liquor and avoiding class. In today locked-down, zero tolerance environment, such behavior is inconceivable. Today, for better or worse, our schools are a lot like minimum security prisons where the students are constantly being monitored.

This book, even though it is in the form of a graphic novel, is the definitive historical work on Jeffrey Dahmer. Not only is it written by one of his closest high school buddies, the “President of the Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club” as he called himself in high school, but the author has done exhaustive research from first- person sources to glean every detail of the story. Truly, no other author has examined this serious subject with such attention to detail. It shows how flexible and powerful the graphic novel form can be.

By the way, despite the obvious care and attention to detail shown in this book, the topic makes it a difficult, sad, and strange read. The story is ultimately one of terrible tragedy.

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2 Comments
  1. Erica Greene permalink

    Wow… yeah school has changed since your time. Hopefully that’ll prevent anyone from becoming a serial killer. O.o

  2. Georgann Greene permalink

    Unfortunately, mental illness has been in the world since the beginning of time and will no doubt continue. Terrible things are always difficult to understand. The criminal mind remains a mystery to most of us. As a defense attorney, I know you continually are faced with the need to understand what causes a person to harm another. Bless you for the work you do.
    Mom

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