My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

This is another reading challenge book and after I got it out I decided I wouldn’t read it.  I was afraid it might be too depressing or gruesome. But then, today, I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. I read the entire thing (start to finish-don’t miss out on the prologue, epilogue, or end notes) during Tabby’s dance class.
This is the true story of Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer, and it covers his adolescence up until he graduates from high school.  The author was his classmate and, while not really a friend, hung around with him quite a bit.  His memories are filled in with extensive research, so that as a whole the book really depicts who Dahmer was and what was going on with him.  I find it really difficult to read stories about serial killers and psychopaths because as much as it seems like there’s always some external things going on (i.e., his mentally unstable mother and his parents’ incessant fighting and bitter divorce), it more seems like these people are hard wired this way and like no intervention would help.  The author points out again and again that not one adult seemed to notice Jeff’s odd behavior (such as outright being drunk constantly at school)and intervene.  You really have to wonder though if they could have helped someone who had sexual fantasies involving corpses.  Could he have been saved? Or perhaps just constantly drugged for the rest of his life to tamp down the mental demons and terrible urges he had? I mean, it’s all really sad and horrifying to contemplate.  For all that I think that I was pleased to find that this was not a difficult book for me to read.  It was not too graphic or gory or intense.  I am glad that I ultimately did read this.

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One thought on “My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

  1. I recently read this as well. I liked it, Backderf did a good job balancing trying to understand Dahmer and holding him responsible for his actions. I also found the Don Martin/Mad Magazine cartooning to fit perfectly with the high school tale. Part goofy, part horrific.

    What other books outside your comfort zone are you planning to read?

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