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My Friend Dahmer

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  5,945 ratings  ·  1,034 reviews
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 ri ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Harry N. Abrams (La Martinière) (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joanna
This was really disappointing. So... it's sorta a memoir by this guy who knew and kinda bullied Jeffrey Dahmer when he was in High School. Sounds okay! How can that be boring.

It's kinda boring.

Problem is, I'm more sympathetic to Dahmer than Derf! That's crazy! I mean, it's Dahmer and Derf is just like... a douche. But even then the douchiest douche can't possibly inspire more negative feelings than a goddamn serial killer! I mean... can it?

Derf's not even that much of a douche. Kinda flawed i
...more
Mariel
Feb 11, 2013 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cat skulls stacked to the black hole sunset
Recommended to Mariel by: stem to stem
I had normal friendships in high school... and really never had any close friendships after high school. - Jeffrey Dahmer

I followed up a suicide book with a shut-in book and on those heels My Friend Dahmer. I'm more than a little bummed out right now. Sometimes I'll try to bring myself out of myself by allowing me to act incredibly over the top mopey cry baby. I'll put in a bleak song and really get into it. Somehow this cheers me up. It is out of the system. Reading My Friend Dahmer made me cry
...more
Melki
Looking through my old high school yearbook, you'd never be able to pick out which one of the kids chased his girlfriend across a parking lot and put a bullet in her head before turning the gun on himself. Yet, that's exactly what he did just a few years after graduation. There's nothing about his picture that would lead you to believe he would be capable of such violence. He did not win an award for "Most Likely to Commit Murder." In the yearbook photo, he's just another smiling student, eager ...more
James Renner
The artist mostly known as “Derf” was a bit of a mystery during my tenure at the Cleveland Scene and Free Times. He was the guy behind the coolest comic strip in the paper, The City, which ripped on Cleveland every week but also seemed to celebrate its crazy residents at the same time. I would occasionally see him at company parties, quietly watching from the back, this tall dude with a long face who usually seemed pissed at something.

There was this rumor he’d been friends with the serial killer
...more
rachel
This book humanizes Dahmer in a way that I have thought for years to be kind of necessary. In Derf's conclusion, he states that we should have pity/compassion for Jeffrey up until Jeffrey chose to take a life, and then at that point, Jeffrey "should have turned the gun on himself" and taken himself out of his own misery. I'm not sure how I feel about that exact delineation -- monster or not, I don't wish for anyone to kill himself -- but in cases of famous killers who experienced much alienation ...more
Eve
I have read some wonderful autobiographical graphic novels this year! When browsing my local library's shelves for a new one, I came across My Friend Dahmer, which looked like a funny story about a group of high school boys and their hilarious antics during the course of three years. Typical coming of age story, right? Wrong! It wasn't until I got home that I realized the "friend" known as Dahmer was none other than the Jeffrey Dahmer!

My Friend Dahmer is the true story of Backderf's "quirky" fa
...more
A. V.
While reading the preface I was struck, quite negatively, by this line urging readers' to "Pity [Dahmer], but don't empathize with him." Given the title, this seemed like a rather ironic plea, but I held out hope that this was just an overzealous attempt to assure the world that Backderf was in no way endorsing mass murder, but the novel itself would still be an attempt to draw out some depth of humanity to such a well-known horror story. Alas.

The art is fine. Maybe better than fine, but who kno
...more
Laura

A rare voice and original style come together to form one chilling, creeped-me-out-to- the-core story. I mean how many people can say they were once friends with Jeffrey Dahmer? *shivers just walked down my spine*

An interesting first-hand account of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school days. A story that got under my skin. The “if-onlys” and “what-ifs” in life can haunt us if we let them. Mr. Backderf sounded a bit haunted to me.

If only someone had noticed…or what if someone had spoken up
...more
Lisa Beaulieu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jana
How I started the new year: by reading a graphic novel about a serial killer.

But before you judge me, this is a very thoughtful, fascinating, well written and drawn story from the perspective of a fellow high school classmate. I had no idea if I'd read more than a few pages when I picked it up on New Years Day. But I finished it, mesmerized, in one sitting and then immediately made my husband read it. And then per the notes in the back of the book, I watched the NBC Stone Phillips interview on
...more
christa
If you’ve ever known a serial killer, you know that there is a pre-kill period ripe for mining. Instances in a life that foreshadowed the dismembered body stuffed into a drain pipe (or the family all dressed in bloody pajamas, axed to death in their country home, as the case may be).

Derf Backderf’s graphic novel “My Friend Dahmer” considers the awkward teen years of Jeffrey Dahmer, who went on to fame as a killer who trolled Milwaukee’s gay community and had a taste for human flesh. A trophy col
...more
Samrat
Jun 26, 2012 Samrat rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Samrat by: Raina
Um, well, Backderf seems like a pretty awful person. And sure, Dahmer's worse, on account of the murder and cannibalism and necrophilia and all that. But it was pretty uncomfortable how unselfconsciously he discussed participating in all these cruel schemes in high school and how if only some adult would have done anything. I mean the blame rests with Dahmer, not Backderf or his fellow peers, but... for a book that seems to argue over and over again that adults have failed him, I mean, Derf does ...more
Michelle.
Someone left this book at my work's office and I just picked it up and started reading (slow work day). I finished the entire thing in about an hour.

I see MANY people here in the reviews complaining about Derf's "where were the adults?" ponderings but honestly I think that is FAR from the main point of this book.

I love reading about serial killers. I've always found them incredibly fascinating and I think this book does a great job of really giving a view into his life that no other author real
...more
Tosh
A graphic memoir by Derf Backderf who went to high school school with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. What we get are snapshots of Dahmer's life before he totally answered to his darker side. Yet, clearly he was on that road to mayhem perhaps all his life. One is never sure, because I think everyone has a Dahmer they went to school with. And that is the quiet shock of the narrative, at least for me.

There are two worlds that are expressed in this 'graphic novel.' One by Backderf, who seemed to hav
...more
Jeffrey
This is the kind of first hand account - journalist inside the story - that Joe Sacco is the undisputed master of, but isn't often seen in comics. What's unique about this book is that Derf had no idea that the things he was observing would become another side of a bigger story. There's an intimate closeness to the subject that really adds a more terrifying perspective to the crimes than what you'd get from yet another retelling of the grisly details.
Snotchocheez
3.5 stars

If I open one eye, keep the other closed whilst reading John "derf" Backderf's graphic biog-novel My Friend Dahmer I am genuinely creeped out and in awe of a masterpiece of freakishness; I then open my other, cynical and jaundiced eye and see a mocking, shallow instrument of self-promotion and -aggrandizement. But then I think, What would I do if I went to high school with perhaps the most notorious serial killer of our generation. Would I write a book? If I was able to do so, yeah, pro
...more
Raina
Wow, what a monster.

And yes, I'm talking about the book.

Derf gives his perspective on the youth of a future serial killer. Dahmer was one of his classmates in high school, a "mascot" for his group of friends as Derf puts it. Derf's story about Dahmer was published first in a shorter version, a decade or so ago. Now, Derf gives it the full treatment. 200 pages, to be (almost) exact.

Here's what I liked about it...

1. It was completely subjective. And it's completely transparent in its subjectivit
...more
Zeo
Backderf points out at the beginning that the truth is adjusted for the story, which is about what happens when a person's image is adjusted for comic illustration. I think that's an important tone to read the whole thing in - it's very openly his perception of the story, based on his own experiences and the experiences heard from others as he felt best to interpret them, and I think expressing them in the format of a comic, especially in Backderf's heavy-lined, awkward-limbed style is a sort of ...more
Matt Glaviano
Certainly not enjoyable -- but extremely well done.

What I liked about My Friend Dahmer was its ability to operate as two stories at once. One of the stories was unexceptional; a memoir of a pretty normal teen growing up in 1970s America.

The other story was extraordinary; the creation of one of the 20th century's most notorious serial killers. It's the first of the two stories that really makes the book work. Not only can you juxtapose Derf to Dahmer, but his "normality" manages to highlight a l
...more
April Helms
I had heard about this book, and decided to give it a try when I saw that it was one of the books which won this year's Alex Award. For those who don't know about Jeffrey Dahmer, he was arrested and found guilty in connection of the murders of 17 men and boys. He grew up - as did the author - in a community about a half hour from where I live. Indeed, Backderf, who has done editorial cartooning, comic strips and a previous graphic novel and lives in the Cleveland area, was in the same graduating ...more
Gopal Rao
Serial killers aren't really that interesting of a topic for me, but it seems like they are one the societal and cultural touchstones of this time. There are numerous tv shows about them, like AMC's The Killing, or Hannibal.

Most of the serial killer fiction I have seen tries to dissect the killer's psyche from the present backwards by looking at the gory details of their crimes and trying to establish patterns that can be traced to their "birth" as a killer.

My Friend Dahmer, which is a non-fic
...more
Karin
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name Jeffrey Dahmer? That's right, GRAPHIC NOVEL.

Derf Backderf, the author of MY FRIEND DAHMER, actually went to school with the notorious serial killer. Not only does he use his own personal memories of the time they shared the halls together, but he also took the time to interview other classmates and teachers. conducted research by reading/watching interviews with Dahmer after he was captured, and reading the book Dahmer's father wrote.
...more
Melissa
If I tell you "graphic novel about Jeffrey Dahmer," whatever your first expectation happens to be is pretty much this book. Although the artwork very much not to my taste, this is still very readable. Several times I found myself thinking, "How did Derf know?" or "That couldn't have happened like that," but according to the five page summation at the end of the book, Derf has all his bases covered. Yes, it did happen like that, or in a few cases events are surmised from several carefully notated ...more
Arminzerella
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
I got this book on a whim and ended up reading almost entirely in one sitting. The creator went to high school with notorious serial killer Jeffry Dahmer and this is his story -- so off the bat, it is somewhat flawed and anyone looking for an in-depth analysis of Dahmer's crimes or psychology should probably go elsewhere. This is simply a memoir of one teenager's unusual friendship with another, of the sad and pathetic story of a disturbed boy, of all the adults and teens who missed warning sign ...more
Jeff
After reading this and having read the shorter version of this book and recently reading a book on Jeffrey Dahmer. Before you learn the story and the facts, But still leaves you shocked, disturbed, mad, emotional and fragile. Learning the origin of a monster is scary enough but an account revealed by those who knew him and recognized the warning signs. That adults, Even his family didn't. Seeing him slowly slip into his selfish and abysmal desires.

I read the self published comic book version Der
...more
Babyunagi
First, rating this book strictly on its merits as a graphic novel, it was well done. The drawings have a pared down Mark Alan Stamaty or Mad Magazine feel to them, and having grown up in the 70's as well, this was a fun trip down memory lane for me (roadkill aside). Backderf also explicates things very well, both visually and with well-placed narrative to back up his illustrations when necessary.

The book's topic is so fraught with potential minefields; Dahmer did despicable things, making any i
...more
Sam Quixote
This is the story of necrophiliac cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school years told from the perspective of John “Derf” Backderf who went to the same school as him and knew him a bit socially too. The book doesn’t go beyond high school graduation but presumably most people coming to this book will know the horrific crimes Dahmer committed from age 18 onwards until he was finally caught and sent to prison where he was murdered by a fellow deranged inmate.

The book’s tone presents Dah
...more
jess
This graphic novel is about the high school years of Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer, as told by a high school acquaintance, Derf. Derf and his pals formed the "Dahmer Fan Club," hung out with Dahmer over the years and witnessed a lot of his strange behavior, including high school alcoholism, unsettling impersonations of his mom and animal taxidermy. The story is dark and upsetting, like you'd probably expect it to be. Derf's perspective is so interesting - knowing that something is weird about Da ...more
Rebecca
Fascinating, dark, depressing, and deeply creepy. I have been thinking about this every day since I read it. Backderf went to high school with Jeff Dahmer and recalls his memories of the teen who became the serial killer. Seen through the lens of what we now know Dahmer did, it's hard not to look at the many factors at play in his life and try to make some conclusions. Could he have been saved at any point? Was his outcome the product of genetics, times, ignorance, mental illness, repressed sexu ...more
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