Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Book Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Written (and illustrated) by a classmate of one of America's most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer, My Friend Dahmer depicts the teenage years of Dahmer's life and his slow downward spiral into murder.

"He was the loneliest kid I'd ever met."

As much as I love the gory graphic details associated with serial killers and true crime, I also have a real interest in what makes a serial killer. Why do they kill? Is the urge something you are just born with, or is it a consequence of life events? In this graphic novel, Backderf attempts to explain some of the reasons why Dahmer went down the path he did.

I didn't necessarily expect to find myself feeling sympathetic towards Dahmer, his backstory is surprisingly very sad. However, this is NEVER going to excuse the horrendous acts he goes on to commit. Plenty of people are lonely teenagers, or grow up in a house with an ill parent, or have to witness the messiness of their parent's divorce. This will never ever be an excuse for what he did. At times Backderf reflects on how intelligent Dahmer was, how he was able to wrangle his way into the Vice President's office on a school trip, and how, ultimately, this intellect was wasted.

It's also sad because a lot of the warning signs were there and yet no adult recognised this - or if they did, they merely ignored it. Perhaps if Dahmer had gotten the help he needed during his teenage years, a number of lives could have been saved. Or perhaps not. Maybe Dahmer was destined to become the sick individual he was. Either way, his eventual abandonment during his formative teenage years appears to have been a trigger for his first murder.

I wasn't a huge fan of the illustrations, they're not really the style I would usually gravitate towards. And at times I felt like the author was pretty heavy handed with trying to hammer home the fact that Dahmer's home life was a pile of crap. OKAY, I got it. It just got irritating after a number of times. I actually felt like I got most of the important details and information from the "Notes" section at the back of the graphic novel, where Backderf reveals his sources for each part of the story.

I enjoyed it overall though, it provides quite an interesting insight into the earlier life of Dahmer, although I do feel like the term "friend" is being used loosely here. He merely seems to have just been a classmate! This one gets 3.5 stars out of 5 from me - rounded up for goodreads!


1 comment :

  1. Great review! I need to venture in to these types of books because I have the same interest in what makes a serial killer.


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