One of my favorite things about attending ALA’s Annual Conference is all the fantastic author events that are available, and 2013 in Chicago did not disappoint. I went straight from YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch (awesome) to the 2013 Alex Awards Presentation. This was the first time I had attended this particular program, and it was a great way to hear directly from some of the winning authors about their books and the experience of winning the award.
First up was comic artist Derf Backderf (whom we interviewed back in March), whose chilling memoir, My Friend Dahmer, chronicles his high school friendship with a classmate who would later become one of America’s worst serial killers. Backderf shared a number of images from high school that seemed freakishly prescient; one of his drawings showed Dahmer stuffed into a grocery bag, an image that meant nothing at the time but in retrospect was just, in his own words, “incredibly creepy.” Yearbook photos from which Dahmer was also blacked out of yearbook photos after a prank to sneak him into group photos was discovered — which all too clearly paralleled the neglected teen and his feelings of isolation as he became increasingly marginalized during his senior year. It was a very powerful presentation, and there were many questions from the audience, including a woman who asked Backderf’s opinion about a forthcoming YA title seen in the exhibit hall in which a teen named Jeff Jacobson realizes he has been cloned from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA (you can’t make this stuff up, folks).