Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” as Want to Read:
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  834 ratings  ·  256 reviews
From bestselling author Derf Backderf comes the untold story of the Kent State shootings—timed for the 50th anniversary
On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University. In a deadly barrage of 67 shots, 4 students were killed and 9 shot and wounded. It was the day America turned guns on its o
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 9th 2020 by Abrams ComicArts
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Kent State, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Karen Gedeon I would use Deborah Wiles book Kent State for 5th or 6th graders instead of this one.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  834 ratings  ·  256 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and moving - 5+ Stars

I was born almost a decade after most of the chaos surrounding the Vietnam War in the late 60s/early 70s. I can only imagine what it was like to grow up with the threat of being drafted and the chaos of military action on our home soil. Unfortunately, 2020 has shown that maybe we have not come quite as far from the events of Kent State as we hoped.

Backderf does a great job with all of his research and sharing this important story using the graphic novel medium. It m
Dave Schaafsma
“My God! They’re killing us!”--Kent State Freshman Ron Steele, May 18, 1970

“Four dead in Ohio”--Neil Young

I was a high school student in 1970 when the Kent State killings took place, Ohio National Guard firing live ammo on unarmed students, four killed, nine maimed for life, thousands more traumatized, many in the country turned permanently activist against fascism if they weren't already there. I was already well read about Vietnam and had particpated in student protests as the country was now
Rod Brown
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The more things change . . .

Derf provides this dramatization of events leading up to the Kent State shootings that happened fifty years ago, but it all eerily echoes headlines from today's news: a corrupt and paranoid president leads the country, a liberal mainstream protest movement is aswirl in rumors of radical elements and terrorism, armed conservatives are sick of what they see as chaos and anarchy and are ready to put a stop to it all by any means necessary.

Gripping and tragic. I couldn't
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
War, lies, fascism, Republicans, brutality. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, riveting, disturbing.
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
Summary: A graphic non-fiction account of the shooting of four students at Kent State University, focusing on the students who died, and the sequence of events leading up to the shooting, and the dynamics within the National Guard Troops sent to suppress the student demonstrations.

Today (May 4) marks 50 years since the shootings that took the lives of four Kent State students and wounded nine others, some disabled for life. I grew up about 35 miles from Kent in nearby Youngstown. Sandy Scheuer,
Samantha W.
You know what's horrifying about this? That it's never ending.

At Kent State it was the National Guard, but all across America it's police officers, or other organizations that are supposed to protect the American people. No one takes responsibility for these situations, and it feels like it's often caused by misunderstanding and overly weaponized barely trained humans. Also, the fact that those who were officially put to trial were just freed with no true justice being served.

Derf did a great j
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is an achievement of line work and layout. Derf's artwork is well-suited to the juxtaposition of 70s student-activists and over-armed National Guardsmen. The dialog doesn't read as realistic, but that's okay because it's still effective and thought-provoking. ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's the 50th anniversary of the blood shed that occurred at Kent State. While I was familiar with the happenings, I wasn't really educated in the history and what was currently happening within our nation, causing these events to unfold. Told in a graphic novel, Backderf takes us into the state of affairs within the state of Ohio and specifically the college campuses in the state. Demonstrating well researched historical information and interviews with those who had first hand experiences durin ...more
I found this on my local library’s website. I’m so glad I got to it.

It’s a lesson in the more things change, the more things stay the same. This chronicles the events leading up to the slaying of four students on Kent’s campus during protests in May of 1970. This gives a snapshot into student life on the campus and the tumultuous time in our nation’s history. It helps give a clear understanding of how the students are held in disdain by the community; how the students are trying to make sense o
Shawn Fairweather
May 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Full Disclosure: This was a free read thanks to the Goodreads Giveaway Program

This has been sitting on my to read shelf for sometime, however with what has been going on in the world over the last couple of days due to the travesty of death of George Floyd and all of the ongoing protests, riots, and cries for social change, I thought this was an appropriate time to dive in.

I found this to be an awkward read as the artwork to me gave a more lighthearted view of the tragic events at Kent State bac
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
2020 may have been an awful year so far, but it has seen some truly stellar books. This graphic-format account of the infamous Kent State massacre of 1970 is one of them.

Reading this book, I could almost hear the famous guitar intro of the iconic CSNY song that gave it its title. I learned so much about the pressure cooker that was Kent State in the days leading up to the tragedy. The story is far more convoluted than most realize, but this book excels at making the events clear and immediate.

Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Got an advanced copy of this through work, and had to give it a read! After My Friend Dahmer, I expected big things from Backderf, but sadly, I was slightly disappointed.
Perhaps it's difficult following up on something like My Friend Dahmer. That was probably the case, as I had trouble not thinking back to that book as I was reading this one. Kent State lacked the cinematic quality of Backderf's previous work, and read more like a documentary that was cartoonified, rather than an account of an
My interview feature with Derf Backderf is up on Publisher's Weekly:

This is one of the best graphic novels I've read in the last five years. This May will be the 50th Anniversary of the tragedy, though from what I understand publication is being delayed to September due to the Coronavirus crisis. Whenever it comes out I highly recommend it.
Molli B.
I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it last year, and I was bummed when the release date was (understandably) pushed back from May to September. My expectations were relatively high. I was maybe more excited about this release than any other book this year (that I can think of right now!). And I was not disappointed in the least.

This was GREAT. I knew just the barest minimum about the events, and I think Derf did an amazing job telling the story, introducing the characte
Rachael  Fryman
Tough but important read. Sadly, parallels can be made in current day and that makes such historical recountings even more frustrating and heartbreaking.
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics

One of the strongest graphic novels of the year by the always reliable Derf Backderf. Extremely timely and incredibly powerful, this is a must-read for folks interested in the history of anti-war movements in this country.
Peter Landau
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been reading a lot of books from this era, which is also the time my memory begins as a preteen. There are a lot of similarities to the times we bemoan today. That gives me an odd sense of relief — things will just chug along regardless of dire predictions. I felt the same unearned sense of calm at the beginning of this thoroughly researched book on the tragedy of Kent State. Then I was anxious, overtaken by a feeling of foreboding. I knew what was coming, but it didn’t matter. This straigh ...more
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing graphic history of the Kent State massacre, told partly through the stories of the 4 who were killed that day. Before I read this book, I knew little enough about the massacre that if I hadn't been reading the endnotes concurrently, I think I would have been shocked that 4 of the main people the narrative followed were killed! I was also surprised at how familiar the 1970 atmosphere of paranoia & disinformation feels in 2020 (or honestly, 2016, or 2006, etc). The surveillance, misinforma ...more
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Nonfiction - graphic novel

5+ stars - At the end of 2021, when I look back at the books I read, I bet Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio will stand out as one of the best.

I picked up Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio from the library and at a glance lost interest: longer than I expected and the cartoonish illustrations didn't appeal to me. (I forgot, if I ever knew, that Backderf is a political cartoonist.) However, I had requested it because of its strong reviews, so thought I'd give it a try. And, yeah,
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had only vaguely heard of “The Kent State Massacre” before reading this graphic novel. Now I feel like I was there to observe it all unfold. “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” is an absolutely heartbreaking account, following in great detail, the last few days of the four students who died on May 4th.

It’s eerie how many parallels there are to our present day’s treatment of protests and civil unrest, and how those in positions of power are not being held accountable for their blatant disregard of
Jon Nakapalau
DB just keeps getting better...thought I had a pretty good idea what happened at Kent State; was I ever wrong. DB takes us on campus and we walk with the students as tensions mount. Classic example of Nebel des Krieges - and when the tear gas cleared 'Tzuian' warnings of tactics/strategy were written in the blood of students - highest recommendation. ...more
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a well researched narrative of the few days leading up to the Kent State shootings, the incident, and the aftermath... The illustrations are evocative and make sense if you've ready other books by Derf before and are attuned to his illustration style, but I can see how his drawing style could be jarring or maybe seem unaligned with the seriousness of the story. That said, it is a really sensitive telling of the whole story: who the individuals were, what people felt and did, the atmosphe ...more
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic
Meticulous, heart wrenching, infuriating. Typically wonderful artwork by Derf. Incredible notes. A timely read considering current state of affairs.
ARC. Look forward to official release.
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Awesome. Loved it. The graphic novel twist on this event makes the event itself come alive.
Sandy Irwin
Powerful. There is a lot of history here that I didn't know, even as a Kent State alumni. The author's research helped me get to know the victims. Really well done. ...more
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
Movingly effective in its depiction of the Vietnam War protests at Kent State which resulted in the National Guard killing four students there on May 4, 1970, as well as meticulously endnoted by its author, Derf Backderf’s graphic novel combines his research, art and story telling skills to recount the lives of the student protestors and the incompetence of the government institutions in responding to them which led to this campus tragedy.

Backderf now has two great graphic novels under his belt,
Derf presents the lead up to and events of the Kent State Massacre in this tightly written graphic novel. Derf's art style involves black ink alone, but he is able to capture so much detail with his linework, shading, and careful attention. His characters look more like caricatures, but their emotive faces and body language makes it so nothing is lost by the stylistic choice.

This is a sad and infuriating story. Derf provides all of the references used in the last 10+ pages of the book, which mea
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
History truly does repeat itself. Is it possible that it has been 1/2 a century and we're still making the same mistakes?

A graphic novel that serves as a good introduction to the Kent State debacle. Obviously well researched, this is one of those incidents in our country's past that needs to be taught in schools.

I'm torn. Though I think the subject matter warrants a more in-depth look at the tragedy, I'm happy Backderf leaves/left that story for others to write. The graphic novel is an accessib
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison
  • Welcome to the New World
  • Paying the Land
  • Child Star
  • Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes
  • Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence
  • Year of the Rabbit
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist
  • We Served the People: My Mother's Stories
  • They Called Us Enemy
  • Sports Is Hell
  • The Water Dancer
  • Flamer
  • Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics
  • Maids
  • Be Gay, Do Comics
  • Displacement
See similar books…
John Backderf is a Eisner-award-winning American comics creator, also known as Derf Backderf. He is most famous for his recent graphic novels, especially My Friend Dahmer, the international bestseller which won an Angoulême Prize, and earlier for his comic strip The City, which appeared in a number of alternative newspapers from 1990–2014.

Derf has been nominated for multiple Eisner, Harvey and Ign

Related Articles

As this strange summer of staying put winds down, one thing remains truer than ever: Books offer us endless adventure and new horizons to...
56 likes · 30 comments