My Friend Dahmer - Derf Backderf
So while waiting for my final in Ancient Rhetoric to begin earlier today (which is, despite the name, bar none one of the easiest classes that I have ever taken, including those I took in High School), I cheerfully showed some of the people in class the book I was reading while we were all waiting for the professor to run in late. I noticed, as I explained the all-too obvious subject of the book, that everyone else in the classroom had grown suddenly very very silent. So... Awkward.

The title alone goes along with other similarly eye-catching titles, such as "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac," or "John Dies at the End." It's a conversation starter, if anything - and although Derf was not exactly Dahmer's confidant (arguably, that grand reward goes to a sociopath known simply as Figgs), he got about as close to a damaged human being as you can get without it blowing up on him.

The promise on the book's inner left dust cover, that you may think that you know the full story when you don't, seems to be true, as Derf went through what was obviously extensive research, while at the same time making it more than a dry piece of profiling, all in an effort to show a murderer in a light that I have not seen before - from the point of view of an oblivious "friend" who is light years away from understanding the pain and loneliness that only someone as mentally and physically isolated as Jeffrey Dahmer could be.

I loved the art style - something that I referred to as being fitting for writing in the POV of a teenager in. Sweaty, irregular and oftentimes cartoonish, it brings an absurdist bent to the piece, adding fuel to the idea that High School was and will always be a time of ignorance and oddness. A realistic art style would have take away from the piece - as it stands, the bluntness with which the story was handled is properly told with the use of the drawing as well as the narrative.

I also appreciate the care in which Derf used his and his friends' recollections of living around the mass murderer as well as the hard research that Derf used to flavor the comic - from actual statistics on the student populations in high schools in America at the time to the assertion that it is just a grotesque myth that Dahmer was ever sexually abused as a child, I feel as though I now have a better picture of just who and want Dahmer was like in his most formative of years.

Following the main story, Derf carefully cites all of the sources for the information used in the book, going from interviews with Dahmer while he was alive to exactly who told him what pieces of information. Included in the lists of sources are macabre pieces of information, such as the the most accurate look at Dahmer's family that can be found (minus the inclusion of any information on his younger brother) and the fate of Dahmer, following High School.

Well-researched as well as well-made, Derf gets his audience as close as he was to his one-time friend and tries his best to give us an even closer look than he had at the personal life of an infamous American murderer.

A must-read for people interested in the pure rubber-necked curiosity of learning about serial killers, this book offers up something different to the table - at times pitying as it is disturbing, we see that even someone as broken and twisted as Jeffrey Dahmer is not a "monster," but rather someone who, coupled with crippling mental disorders, was left to come apart at the seams until he did the unthinkable.