We often hear things after a killer is apprehended like:
“Well, weren’t there signs in childhood?”
“How did their parents/spouse/coworkers not know or see what was going on?”
“I’m just so surprised. They seemed so pleasant and quiet and normal. The kind of person you’d never think would hurt even a fly, ya know? Just shocking.”
“I never would have pictured they would do something like that.”
This graphic depiction of Backderf’s high school friendship with Jeffrey Dahmer is riveting. You get first-hand knowledge of the kind of things that people see as red flags only when looking in hindsight at the situation.
Backderf shows Dahmer was always a strange kid, always the odd man out. But on the outside, to people around him, he played this off more like he was the class clown, while deep inside and behind closed doors he was very insecure and afraid of being abandoned, unloved and unwanted.
Now, I’m the first to say that a hard life is no excuse for killing people. And Jeff DID have a few really rough spots in his youth that could have quite conceivably led to his behavior in later years. Jeff’s mother was described as an ill woman. This book leads one to believe that she wasn’t always the warm and loving maternal figure. I think she saw her husband when she looked at Jeff and her anger with Lionel, Jeff’s father, was projected onto Jeff in his teenage years.
By the time he was seventeen, Jeff had been left to his own devices in the family home. His mother had taken off with his younger brother and Lionel had moved to an apartment until Joyce was gone and the divorce was final. This gave him ample time and privacy to explore the urges he had been wrestling with since he was a pre-teen. By the time high school graduation came around, Dahmer was ready to feed those urges and act on his impulses.
The book only covers the high school era of the Dahmer timeline. There are many incidents described that a number of people confirm did happen. In the back of the book is an entire explanation of where the information for each illustrated incident came from. Backderf is very thorough in documenting where he got this information. But, recognize that this is almost a memoir of sorts, it’s Backderf’s perception of what was going on at the time. It is a fascinating way to experience the telling of the story of Dahmer’s youth.
I originally found this book at the public library in the graphic novel section (which didn’t exist when I was a kid) and I liked it so much I bought my own copy. The artwork, in my opinion, perfectly portrays the awkwardness of Dahmer that we saw in every news clip or interview until he died. The guy was just awkward. This book will show you in just what ways his oddball theatrics and quirks unveiled themselves through the years of high school. From preserving roadkill to faking spaz attacks to drinking all day at school and much more.
If you really want to see what the people around Dahmer saw, get a glimpse into his adolescence and why nobody ever did anything about him…read this book.