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Killing Mr. Griffin: 05/31/10

cover art

Kids these days. They're out of control. They can't read. They can't write. They're just violent pot smoking thugs. They need tough love from their teachers. But can the teachers survive teaching such barbarians? That's the gist of Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan and about half the other plots coming out of the late 1970s, early 1980s (be they in the form of television, film or novels).

In the case of Killing Mr. Griffin, Griffin is a tough new English lit teacher. He hasn't been there long enough to be an "institution" at the school and thus doesn't have the respect of students he's supposed to be teaching. He expects a lot from his class and won't accept late assignments. The problem with his strict approach to teaching is he doesn't give any hint at being fair or reasonable.

The small group of students portrayed quickly take on a mob mentality. Susan, who ends up being painted as the sweet victim of circumstance comes up with the idea of doing away with him but it's Mark who actually puts the plan into action. The group dynamic with Mark at the helm doesn't ring true to me. Of course there is school violence but it's typically aimed at the school, during school hours and the kids who commit the crimes work solo or possibly in pairs. They don't have a ring leader who comes up with "the perfect crime." They just don't.

Between the accidental death of Mr. Griffin and the end the plot takes a few more unusual turns to show how a single psychotic mind can manipulate a group into doing horrendous things. The whole thing reads like a very dated, "very special" episode. I know the book has won awards and is on the most challenged list but for me the book is a product of its era and doesn't stand up well. Frankly, it would have annoyed me if I'd read it when it was first published.

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, June, 1, 2010 at 07:56:06

Kim V

It is a shame when an older book doesn't hold up well, but thanks for the honest review.

Comment #2: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 20:13:57


I think my negative review is more a reflection of my preferences in books than on the book itself. I don't think I would have liked it any more had I read it when it was first published. However, a number of my friends still do speak highly of Killing Mr. Griffin.

Comment #3: Friday, June, 4, 2010 at 22:12:06


What a flash from the past! This was one of my absolute favorites in middle school. Do you remember the movie version-ish? Teaching Mrs. Tingle!

Comment #4: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 20:23:21


I don't remember the movie tie in. Sorry.

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