My Friend Dahmer

Yeah, that Dahmer.  Somebody had to have gone to school with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, right?  Comic artist/writer Derf Backderf grew up a few miles away from Dahmer and delivers creepy insights into this troubled man whom he once considered a “friend.”  Derf and several of his friends become fans of Dahmer’s over-the-top cerebral palsy schtick; the stuff of adolescent boys.  Ironically the act makes the odd boy more seemingly normal.  The book opens with Dahmer sharing his favorite, private pastime with the group of friends.  He leads them to a shed in the woods where he dissolves roadkill remains in jars of acid, a first clue to his twisted proclivities.   Scorned by most of his classmates and neglected by his parents, Derf manages to elicit sympathy for Dahmer who battles his growing obsessions by drinking.  Derf expertly builds tension by revealing Dahmer’s fantasy about a young man who routinely jogs by his house.  Like the scene where he leads a dog into the woods, when Dahmer grabs a baseball bat and pursues the jogger, readers will be breathless.  Dahmer’s limited popularity in high school culminates in a scene at a local mall that finally and completely alienates his companions.  Dahmer’s post graduation indulgence and subsequent stop by a police officer are chilling.  Derf’s epilogue attests to the uncanny nature of instinct.  Subtle, brilliant and sympathetic, My Friend Dahmer is a gripping read.

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