Reader Response: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.
One of the things that I really like about the Hub Reading Challenge is that there are books from lists (like Great Graphic Novels for Teens) that I don’t always hear about and usually don’t plan to read. When I first saw the title My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Novel, I wondered if it was about Jeffrey Dahmer the serial killer. When I read more about the book I was worried at how “graphic” the graphic novel would be. I was not expecting to particularly like this book, but I really did. I don’t know if “loved” best describes the feelings it invoked, but it definitely was intense and really made you think about how someone becomes a serial killer. I learned several things about Jeffrey Dahmer that I didn’t know before reading the book and found the bibliographical references even more informative.
I found that Derf’s illustrations, especially of Jeffrey Dahmer, were slightly disturbing (his “spaz” attacks, etc.), which added to the quiet horror of this story. I appreciated the way that Derf presented the information in a very tasteful and conservative way, considering the subject matter. He seemed to want to present Dahmer’s upbringing and ask some pretty big questions about responsibility while not just using this format as a way to promote perversion or violence.
I hope that people read this book and realize that instead of ignoring or making fun of those weird students that will “probably turn out to be serial killers,” we might actually be able to intervene and, by helping them early enough, others’ lives could be saved in the future. I often wonder, “Where were the adults?” when I read about incidents of bullying and violence and hope that as an adult in education I don’t inadvertently allow such behavior to occur.
My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Novel by Derf Backderf is a well-told, powerful story. I thought about this book for several days after I finished it. I’m so glad that the Hub Reading Challenge helped me discover this great graphic novel!
— Leslie Carloss