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My friend Dahmer : a graphic novel
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In a graphic novel that was originally self-published, the author offers an account of growing up in the same schools as Jeffrey Dahmer, who went on to become one of the most notorious serial killers and cannibals in U.S. history. Simultaneous. 25,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

In graphic novel format, the author offers an account of growing up in the same schools as Jeffrey Dahmer, who went on to become one of the most notorious serial killers and cannibals in United States history. - (Baker & Taylor)

The bone-chilling graphic novel that inspired the major motion picture starring Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer.
2013 ALA/YALSA Alex Award
2014 Revelation Award at Angoulême
2015 ALA/YALSA Alex Award (Excellence in Narrative Nonfiction)
Named a BEST OF 2012 by Time, The Village Voice, A.V. Club, comiXology, Boing Boing, Publishers Weekly, MTV Geek, and more!
You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer&;the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper&;seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, "Jeff" was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche&;a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.
Also available by Derf Backderf, Trashed.

Find teaching guides for My Friend Dahmer and other titles at
- (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)

Author Biography

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.

- (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)

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Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

The smartass snark of Backderf's comic strip, The City, which he's been drawing for alternative newspapers for two decades, does little to prepare his fans for this ambitious autobiographical graphic novel about attending school with Jeffrey Dahmer, who would soon commit a string of sex-driven murders that would make him one of history's most infamous serial killers. Backderf recounts how Dahmer's behavior grew progressively strange, from quietly odd in junior high to genuinely bizarre in high school, where he'd fake epileptic fits and adopt spastic behavior to gain attention; meanwhile, he'd butcher small animals in the woods. Backderf tellingly depicts adolescent ennui in the 1970s as well as the uncaring obliviousness of the adults in Dahmer's life. The blunt, ungainly drawings, with their robotically stiff figures, effectively convey the drab suburban milieu. The hard times that have befallen alt-weeklies have led to the disappearance of cartoonists from their pages; Backderf's transition from sardonic gagman to accomplished full-length storyteller, like Lynda Barry's second act as a creativity guru, shows that the loss has some positive repercussions. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

ForeWord Magazine Reviews

In the hands of a less talented creator, My Friend Dahmer would find its place alongside other "True Crime" books, volumes that mostly give readers the gory details in superheated prose, but which provide little insight into how such monsters are born. Fortunately, cartoonist Derf Backderf isn't one to avoid the troubling, even terrifying, truths that lurk in the dark recesses of that notorious serial killer's early life—and modern American life itself.

As the title suggests, Backderf did know Dahmer. They first met during the 1970s, while both were attending junior high school in Eastville, Ohio. However, he's quick to reveal the lie behind his title by repeatedly demonstrating throughout this harrowing volume that no one laid even passing claim to the title of "friend" to Dahmer during high school. Worse still, it seems that there was no adult—no parent, guardian, or educator—who demonstrated a modicum of real, sustained interest in that troubled youth's life.

Instead, what little human contact the teenaged Dahmer had with others was superficial at best. More often he was excluded, ignored, or served as the scapegoat of bullies, both an object of derision for his classmates and a neglected burden to his family and acquaintances. For Backderf and his fellows, he was a caustic class clown, the weird kid who could be bribed with booze to perform outrageous imitations of a local handicapped man for their enjoyment. Ultimately, Dahmer was easily discarded and barred from any hope of friendship once these heartless games ceased to amuse them.

All of this is presented in Backderf's
signature style, which places elongated, blocky figures against realistically rendered backgrounds. This lends both the players and their environs a real sense of weight that is bolstered by his fluid line work combined with a superior use of both negative space and shadows. And it's those same abilities that imbue the features and physiques of these characters with a depth of emotion that belies their two-dimensional natures. This is cartooning of the highest caliber, an approach which—working in tandem with Backderf's understated and seamless script—ensures a fascinating, if,
ultimately bleak, reading experience.

The most disturbing aspect of this tale is how all of the adults in Dahmer's life utterly failed him. According to this account, not one questioned the increasingly haunted youth about his fascination with collecting and dissecting road kill, or investigated his growing absences from school (when he attended at all) or his increasing dependence on alcohol, which eventually left him a reeking stumblebum. Readers have to wonder how different things might have been if anyone had taken this troubled teen in hand or shown even a glimmer of interest in him.

And that's the terrible, unspoken truth coiled around the bleak heart of this story; the sad realization that things might have been different, followed by a prayer that our own children do not, will not, lead lives that mask their own private hell.

© 2012 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Library Journal Reviews

Backderf went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious serial killer who murdered 17 people, dabbling in cannibalism and necrophilia en route. With growing gay attractions he couldn't talk about, distant and combative parents, and limited social skills with peers, Dahmer was a kid who imitated cerebral palsy victims to get anybody to notice him. Indeed, perhaps "friend" isn't the right word for Backderf's relationship to Dahmer, since the kids who talked to Dahmer did so mainly to laugh at his weird performances or to torment him. There's no graphic crime or murder in this story, just the creepiness of how Dahmer's loneliness and insanity snuck up on him while eluding the adults who should have helped. Backderf's intentionally ungainly black-and-white art underscores the universal awkwardness of adolescence, and the approach has emotional resonance even if Dahmer must have been rather nice looking, judging from later photos. VERDICT Carefully researched and sourced with ample back matter, Backderf's tragic chronicle of what shouldn't have been is a real butt-kicker for educators and youth counselors as well as peers of other potential Dahmers. Highly recommended for professionals as well as true crime readers, teen up.—M.C.

[Page 65]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Readers of Derf Backderf's the City strip in various alt-weeklies will immediately recognize his visual style (flattened landscapes and blocky characters who look uncomfortable in their own skin), but not the content in this visceral, ambitious new graphic novel. Instead of the City's surreal, satirical ennui, Backderf explores a hard-to-believe autobiographical story. During the 1970s in Ohio, he attended high school with and befriended Jeffrey Dahmer, "the loneliest kid I'd ever met." Backderf and his social misfit crew drift in and out of Dahmer's story, which the author pieced together from memories and more recent research. It's a barbed-wire portrait of a devil-minded teen with divorcing and neglectful parents. He slices up roadkill to see what it looks like, gets attention in school by doing imitations of cerebral palsy victims, and swims in alcohol to drown out his violent urges. The tone is sympathetic and enraged ("Where were the damn adults?") while not excusing or making the story unduly fascinating. Backderf's writing is impeccably honest in not exculpating his own misdeeds (the sections about how he and his friends encourage Dahmer's spaz shtick while still excluding him make for brutal reading) and quietly horrifying. A small, dark classic. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

As a junior high kid, he collected roadkill and stored it in acid in a shed on the back of his parents' property. He was beneath the notice of all but the bullies. His mother suffered from peculiar neurotic episodes, and eventually his parents divorced. He realized that he was homosexual but never acted on it. He attracted a little more attention in high school, due greatly to the eccentric persona he adapted to thwart adults and humor his peers. He tried to drown his fantasies (which included sexual fulfillment with dead bodies) in alcohol. It is really little wonder that Jeffrey Dahmer went on to become the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper This reviewer was prepared to hate this graphic novel but is thrilled to be proven wrong. What could have been an exploitative tell-all is instead a sympathetic portrayal of Dahmer's descent into madness. Backderf is a two-time nominee for Eisner Awards, but most do not know that he spent his junior and senior high years as a classmate and acquaintance of Dahmer. Thoughtfully reflecting on the influential school years, Backderf uses a variety of sources—FBI interviews, news stories, Dateline NBC, his own experiences—to chronicle a young man's battle with his own inner demons. Black, white, and ocher panels portray a somber story that needs to be told, if only to warn us all of the dangers of living on the fringe.—Rebecca Moore 4Q 3P M J S Graphic Format Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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