by Derf Backderf
I'm sure everyone has seen, after someone shoots up a mall or school, the interviews where their neighbours talk about how quiet and normal they were. My Friend Dahmer is an exploration of cartoonist Derf Backderf's memories of growing up alongside, and sort of being friends with, notorious serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
They attended high school together, and Dahmer became a source of obsession and hilarity for Backderf and his friends, who formed a Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club, mostly out of appreciation for his imitation of his mother's cerebral palsy-suffering interior decorator.
Basically, this book is one part memoir of growing up in a boring little place, a faithful reconstruction based on well-sourced interviews, articles, and books, of the troubled childhood of Dahmer, and a very successful attempt to weave the two together.
Dahmer was not a happy kid. His parents argued a lot. His mother suffered from untreated mental health issues, including a tendency to have standing seizures. Dahmer himself, ashamed of his homosexuality, began to fixate on roadkill, weird animal experiments, and necrophilic fantasies, which later informed his choice of victim and murderous methods.
What this book also reveals is the cluelessness of youth, and the callous ways in which teenagers can use and drop people who they feel do not meet their social standing.
I liked this book (really, I'm a sucker for most books with detailed endnotes), and am glad that Backderf didn't rely too much on obvious tropes or reactions to things. It's slightly disturbing to find how funny some of this stuff really is, but I think that's human nature, which Backderf explores nicely.