I love books, and I love to read. I enjoy different types of stories, so I can get excited about almost any genre. Almost. When this year’s Georgia Peach Award nominees were announced in February, we were surprised to find that two of the 20 selections were graphic novels. Instantly, I dreaded reading these two titles because “I just don’t read graphic books.” I took home the first of these two books, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, one Monday afternoon and thought I might flip through to see what I was missing. Less than two hours later, I had finished my first graphic novel.
Although I am still not a big fan of graphic books in general, I have a new found appreciation for why many students gravitate toward them. The images in Dahmer told the story in ways that I am not sure words could have. I think that readers could have learned a great deal about this man in any number of other books or articles published about him, but there was something about seeing Backderf’s images that made me feel like I knew this troubled teen. Although I had no intention of reading the book when I first sat down with it, I found that once I began exploring, I had to go back to the beginning and continue until I finished it. I can’t say that I felt sorry for Dahmer after reading the book. Mostly, I felt anger about all of the years that his problems were overlooked. As his depravity escalates in his teen years, I wanted to scream at the people in his life to do something! I was surprised that a book with less words than a typical chapter could make me so emotional. I even found myself spending a great deal of time on the pages with no text or dialogue. There was so much to see and reflect on in each of the scenes of the story. While I would still rather curl up on a rainy day with a traditional fiction novel, I feel like I can be more open-minded when it comes to books outside of my comfort zone like My Friend Dahmer.