Last Thursday, I made a mistake (according to my bank account) during my trip to the Black Hills to visit my grandpa. He recently broken his femur from falling off of a horse. Don’t worry, he’s perfectly fine, and his doctors are impressed by the speed of his recovery. Afterwards, I drove into Rapid City to go shopping and get a haircut. One of my shopping stops was Books A Million. I hadn’t ever been there before, but I love going to new book stores (who doesn’t?). While I was browsing the seemingly endless bookshelves, I came upon the graphic novels and noticed a sign saying “Graphic Novels: Buy 3 Get 1 Free.” My mother’s daughter couldn’t resist a good deal. All of the books probably would have been cheaper on Amazon, but the excitement of the sale got the best of me.
Three of the books I bought are ones that have been book talked in class. The fourth one was My Friend Dahmer. A few months ago, I watched a movie trailer for the film that is soon to come out. At the beginning of the trailer, it said “Based on the graphic novel by Derf Backderf,” and I’ve wanted to read it since. This book follows the teenage life of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer from a classmate’s (Derf Backderf’s) perspective. I read the entire book in one sitting, and if nothing else, it was sad. Really sad. In the beginning, Backderf says that he believes this tragedy could have been avoided if the adults in Jeffrey’s life had paid more attention to him. He was left completely alone for a time when his parents got a divorce, and he was constantly drunk at school without any teachers noticing. Backderf says repeatedly that when interviewing people for this book, teachers said they didn’t notice anything wrong with Dahmer. Throughout the book, Dahmer slowly became the killer he was to become. Dahmer did go to prom, but Backerf said, “For Dahmer, this universal teenage rite was an anemic grab at normalcy. But he couldn’t pull it off. He was too far gone” (160). I haven’t read too many graphic novels, so I didn’t know how the pictures compared to others, but I thought Backderf’s writing was beautiful and and truly encapsulated the tragedy that was Jeffrey Dahmer’s life.
I went into reading this book wondering what age group the novel would be appropriate for. It definitely isn’t appropriate for middle school. Jeffrey Dahmer mutilates animals and is sexually attracted to male corpses. Depending on the school, it may be allowed in a high school classroom. I do think that teachers should read this book though. Throughout the book, I kept wondering, “How did no one notice this kid?” Maybe Jeffrey Dahmer’s life would have been a lot different if the adults in his life showed him some compassion.