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My Friend Dahmer Hardcover – Mar 1 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (March 1 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419702165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419702167
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Derf Backderf has been nominated for two Eisner Awards and has received a host of honors, including the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for political cartooning. His weekly comic strip, The City, has appeared in more than 100 newspapers over the past 22 years. Backderf lives in Cleveland, Ohio.


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By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Dec 19 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
So, how do you write a story about a person who performed horrifying acts without glorifying or justifying his terrible crimes? That was the task that Derk Backderf had to accomplish in his graphic novel "My Friend Dahmer". Backderf was a classmate of Jeffrey Dahmer in the late 70's. Dahmer isolated himself so much in high school that he had no true friends, but Backderf was one of the few people in high school that paid attention to him. After Dahmer was arrested in 1991 for killing multiple men and boys and reportors started reporting on Dahmer's childhood, Backderf noticed that there was a glaring lack of understanding for what it was like to grow up in rural Bath, Ohio.

This graphic novel takes places through Dahmer's junior high and senior high years. Although the book depicts a childhood filled with loneliness and a difficult family life, this was apparently one of the most enjoyable times of Dahmer's life.

The graphic novel was the perfect medium for this story. Backderf never gets inside Dahmer's head to understand the difficulties in dealing with his parents' divorce or the challenges with dealing with his desires. The drawings of Dahmer's homelife tells us more about the isolation and hurt that Dahmer felt, especially when contrasted against Backderf's normal and stable family life. Throughout the book, Backderf interjects stories and facts about schoollife in the 1970's at Revere High School. Young teachers talked openly about drug use and ignored Dahmer's obvious alcoholism throughout high school. When animal parts were found in the woods nailed to trees or clearly tortured, instead of looking at a troubled youth, the cult-focused culture of the 70's assumed that it was a satanic cult.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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