It’s not often that we are offered a look into the deeper inner workings of a serial killers mind. You have your documentaries, yes, which occasionally hint to the tormented youths of your average Jack the Ripper and Son of Sam, but it is a rare occasion when we are offered the opportunity for a first person look into who any one of these plagued children truly used to be. In his second attempt at detailing his personal memories of Jeffrey Dahmer, Derf Backderf presents us with My Friend Dahmner, an extremely personal, yet abruptly distant perspective into the life of a young Mr. Jeffrey Dahmer. Having known the serial killer since the age of 12, attending the same middle school in the early 70s, Derf describes his friendship with Dahmer as a relationship he was “fine with during school hours” but “there was no way” he was going to pursue a closer friendship outside of that. Dahmer, on the other hand, described his friendships during high school as, simply, “a good time.”
If you’re looking for a detailed account of Dahmers killings or the research findings highlighted in the media after the discovery of his gruesome crimes, then this is not the book for you. Instead, Backderf explains, as best he or anyone truly can, the lie of a youth Jeffrey Dahmer lived each and every day. Posing as the “Dahmer Fan Club” mascot, Jeffrey was not considered a friend of the usual sort to this self-described nerdy group of guys. He was, to them, a form of entertainment. Derf explains that it didn’t take very long at all before the group realized Jeffrey Dahmer was not only slightly different, rather, he was sincerely off. These young boys allowed Jeff to entertain them. They were, more than likely, the closest thing to a normal relationship he ever had. He humored them with exaggerated “epileptic” seizures, coupled with raucous outbursts and in return they tolerated his presence, at least until their senior year.
It was the end of this final year of his adolescence where Backderf believes Jeffrey finally slipped into the darkness of his mind beyond return. His friends abandoned him. His mother left him. His father was long gone. School, where he never attended class, but went to drink in the shadows among other living beings, was coming to its final end. It was at this point that Jeffrey Dahmer was left to his thoughts and his thoughts alone. This bitter loneliness proved to be the breading ground for the monster we in the general public have come to know. Backderf emphasizes the fact that his sympathy for Dahmer ends the moment the first murder occurred, yet he makes it very clear that he is unable to separate his memories of a shared youth with a lost young boy from the harsh reality of who that boy became.
As the reader, you are pulled into a lonely, desolate generation where the true question to be posed regarding the outcome of Jeffrey Dahmers life is, “where were the adults?” This question is asked a number of times throughout My Friend Dahmer and by the end of this chilling 224 page graphic novel the reader is left with a slightly more real understanding of how this serial killer became the individual we know of today. I give this 4 out of 5 Epstein’s!