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Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

on November 8, 2012

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Killing Mr. Griffin is by Lois Duncan, who’s famous for writing suspense novels for teens. She also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I have to admit, this is not the type of book I usually read, but I am so glad I picked it up.

The book is about a very strict English teacher, the titular Mr. Griffin. He’s the kind of teacher who doesn’t accept late work and believes that getting an A means you wrote a perfect paper, and since no one can write a perfect paper, no one makes an A. Ever. This doesn’t exactly make him popular with the students.

Literally the first time Mr. Griffin is introduced, he is giving a failing grade to a student who lost his homework assignment on the way to class.  I think most of us had that teacher who thought his class was more important than anything else, so I feel like a whole lot of people can totally empathized with the students in his class… at first.

After a particularly harsh event in which Mr., Griffin gives half the class failing grades on a homework assignment, some of the more popular kids get the idea to teach him a lesson.

 

Get this: they decide to teach that the best way to get back at Mr. Griffin is by kidnapping him and threatening to kill him if he doesn’t start grading easier.

 

I have a feeling there were better ways to go about this.

There is really no main character, unless you count Mr. Griffin, and even he is out of the picture pretty fast and becomes a more omniscient being than an actual character.  That being said, the book mostly revolves around the group of students that kidnap Griffin.

The group of students are:

Mark Kinney: the ringleader of the group. He has a special grudge against Mr. Griffin, due to his humiliation when Mr. Griffin recognized one of his papers as one written by another student back when Mr. Griffin taught at a university. He’s also really freaking creepy, and it’s implied that he may is a psychopath.

Jeff Garrett: an athlete and Mark’s best friend. Well, it’s probably  more accurate to say that he’s Mark’s yes man, since he just goes along with whatever Mark says. He’s sick of Mr. Griffin’s impossible standards.

Betsy Kline: the head cheerleader, whose used to getting her way and is not afraid to destroy other people to get it. She also has a crush on Mark and will follow along to anything he says, even though she’s dating Jeff. Mr. Griffin is the first teacher in her life that didn’t succumb to her charms.

David Ruggles: The president of the senior class and responsible to a fault. His beef with Mr. Griffin comes from the bad grades he’s getting just before he’s applying to college.

So, these kids form a plan to kidnapped their teacher and they decide that they need someone Mr. Griffin wouldn’t expect to lure him out where they can jump the poor guy. They decide to enlist in the help of Susan McConnell, a very intelligent and lonely junior who has an inferiority complex and a crush on David.

 

She was played by the Pink Power Ranger in the movie adaptation. That’s not relevent to anything, I just think it’s cool.

They get Susan to agree to the plan, and it’s at this point in which Duncan does an absolutely brilliant way of making completely humanizing Mr. Griffin. After a few chapters of seeing Mr. Griffin be a complete jerk to the students, we get a chapter in the point of view of Kathy Griffin, his wife.

And I will admit, I was on the kids side at first. Granted, I didn’t think that this was the best way to go about things, but between my personal experiences with a teacher like Mr., Griffin and the way he was portrayed until that point, I thought that the guy had it coming. But then I read that chapter.

In an instant, Mr. Griffin went from being an irredeemable jerkface to a well-rounded and sympathetic character, all from seeing him in the point of view of someone who knew him from somewhere else but the classroom. Kathy Griffin was my favorite character in the book. Her devotion to her husband and ability to cut through the kids crap and find out the truth was amazing.

Essentially, the rest of the book is the students having to deal with the consequences of their actions as the truth of what happened becomes more and more exposed to the authorities.

 

This book was amazing. The characters were either wonderfully unlikeable or fantastically flawed. It was suspenseful and sometimes scary and all-around well done.  It was well-paced and gave you enough detail so that you were on the same page as the students, but still alluded that more trouble was still around the corner.

All in all, it was very well-done and I would recommend it to anyone.

I need to read more of Lois Duncan.

 

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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