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Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan is a young adult fiction

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Jessica Hunt

on 7 October 2013

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Transcript of Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan is a young adult fiction

"Killing Mr. Griffin" by Lois Duncan is a young adult fiction story about a group of high schoolers who decide to pull a prank on the English teacher. The group of five devise a plan to kidnap the teacher to scare him because they are tired of how critical he is of their work. Little do the students know, Mr. Griffin has a heart condition. The kidnapping is all fun and games until the students find the teacher dead. As they try to cover up the crime, other things begin to happen that show that this was not just an innocent prank. (A grandmother is murdered and a house is set on fire with one of the characters tied up in it). When all is said and done, it is discovered that one of the students is a psychopath. This student was able to manipulate the others to play in to his game and their lives will never be the same because of it. The target audience age is between 12 and 15 years of age.
About the Story
Lois Duncan is the daughter of magazine photographers from Florida, so it is not great surprise that Lois got her start writing stories for magazines at the age of ten. Lois has published over 300 pieces of work in various magazines and written more than 48 novels. Her novels do range in target audience age range, but she is best known for her young adult works. Not only does she publish fiction, but she is also recognized for her non-fiction work, "Who Killed My Daughter?" which is a true story about finding her eighteen year old daughter's murderer. (Duncan)
About the Author
Photograph from
Awards for "Killing Mr. Griffin"
ALA Best Book for Young Adults--l976
Massachusetts Children's Book Award--l982
Alabama Young Readers Choice Award--l982-83 86-87
Nominated for California Young Readers Award--l982
Selected for Librarians Best Book List, England--l986
New York Times "Best Book for Children"--l988
NBC Movie of the Week -- 1997
Nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Award
Listening Library, audio recording
Recorded Books, audio recording
Foreign editions: England, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Brazil, Portugal, Germany (Duncan)

Why has this book been challenged?
"Killing Mr. Griffin" has been challenged due to language used within the book as well as for the plot of the story. This book was the "fourth most-challenged book in 2000" ("American Libraries Magazine" ). The language within the book is not overwhelmingly inappropriate, but there are a decent amount of curse words used by high school students through out the story.

The plot of the story is what readers find the most problem with. This story is ultimately about a teenage psychopath who manipulates his classmates in to committing a crime. There is murder, poisoning, arson, under-aged drinking, cover-up and manipulation within this book and challengers don't believe that is good for the teenage reader.
"The Greenville, South Carolina, school board voted June 12 to keep Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan on high-school library shelves, but to pull Blood and Chocolate from Greenville’s middle-school libraries" ("American Libraries Magazine" ).
Greenville, South Carolina attempted to ban
"Killing Mr Griffin" and
"Blood and Chocolate" from their school libraries.
"Killing Mr. Griffin" Should Not Be Banned
"Killing Mr. Griffin" the movie
"Killing Mr. Griffin" was turned in to a movie in 1997. Here is a link to the trailer on IMDb:
At the end of the book the reader finds out that one character is a psychopath and managed to manipulate the other students in to ultimately committing murder.

"'This individual is unique among pathological personalities in appearing, even on close examination, to be not only quite normal but unusually intelligent and charming. He appears quite sincere and loyal and may perform brilliantly at any endeavor. He often has tremendous charismatic power over others.' ...'It's a description of Mark,' Susan said" (Duncan, 2989).
Through out this book the reader is forced to consider that parents of teenagers are too far removed and do not really know what is going on in the lives of their children, no matter what they believe.

"'It makes you wonder where the parents are while all that's going on'" (Duncan, 3267). This is a comment made by the parents of one of the students who helped kill Mr. Griffin.

Lois Duncan said in an interview that "...I think that a typical reaction of many parents is, 'Everybody else's kids are in trouble, but ours are so perfect. All those other parents are just hiding their eyes from what's going on in their own kid's life. Can you imagine such an irresponsible parent?' Here, the parent who's condemning the others is doing just eh same thing. I thought that was quite ironic" (Duncan, 3267).
This book also contains material that is bad behavior:

In order to create an alibi for themselves, the students all lie about what they are doing at the time of Mr. Griffin's kidnapping. One student poisons his grandmother so that she will go unconscious and not notice that he has left the house:

“The pulse in her wrist was strong and even. He had not overdone it. But it had taken longer than he had expected” (841)

There is also under-aged drinking present within the book:

“Mark opened a six-pack of beer” (589)

Excerpts from the book
"Killing Mr. Griffin" is not only a piece of
entertainment but it makes the reader think
about how people relate to one another and
possible naivety of parents of teenagers.

This book has been challenged many times due to the language used, the bad behavior of high school students, and the lack of understand by parents, but that is not a good enough reason to ban a book. When this book is done, the reader is almost forced to think about mental illness and the part it plays within our society. I think that many people are unaware of the impact that mental illness can have on all of us.

Along with that, we start to think about the role of peer pressure within teenagers. Teens just want to fit in, they want to be liked, so sometimes they will go against their better judgement just to feel accepted. This story shows us how easily a responsible student and teenager can fall in to the pressures of his or her peers. What can we do to stop peer pressure? Nothing, but maybe there is a way to teach our students how to deal with it? How to make his or her own decisions when in a difficult spot?
We can't forget about the role of adults within this story though. It is pointed out that parents may not be as aware of what his going on in kids' lives as they think they are. All of the characters in this book were able to deceive their parents. Maybe as adults we are too far removed that we can't see what is happening right under our noses? What can we do to change that? How can we become more aware and what does that look like?
When a book makes us think about how we function in society and with those around us, it should be talked about, not hidden. This book offers us many opportunities to talk to one another about how our society operates with mental illness and peer pressure. Why do we want to stifle that conversation? This book could lead to many beneficial conversations between students and students and adults. I think that we need to be vocal about mental illness instead of hiding it and we need to be more upfront about the reality of peer pressure.

This book should not be banned because it deals with tough realities, it should be used as a discussion tool, a device to talk about subjects that are considered taboo. Some people say that this book will give teenagers ideas for bad things to do, but I don't think that is true if adults are interacting with them. See it as a way to connect with young people, it will be much more beneficial to everyone that way.

In fact, "Duncan’s most popular teenage novels have had to do with psychic phenomena, a subject that she admits she used to consider fantasy. 'Today I believe differently,” she says. “My experiences with psychic detectives during Kait’s murder investigation have forced me to change my mind about what is and isn’t possible. I feel a responsibility to let my readers know that ESP, as represented in books of mine such as A Gift of Magic and The Third Eye, is a reality'" ("Author Spotlight").

I recommend "Killing Mr. Griffin" as a way to introduce mental illness to teenagers and a way to talk about the reality of peer pressure. Not only can this book be a teaching tool and discussion facilitator, but also an entertaining read.
"Killing Mr. Griffin," the made for TV movie was released on April 7th, 1997 and rated PG13 on ABC ("New York Times - Movies").

“'Today, although I write other types of books as well, I still choose to write primarily for teenagers because I love the sensitivity, vulnerability, and responsiveness of that age reader'" ("Author Spotlight").

"Duncan is best known for her brilliant psychological suspense novels. She was drawn to this genre because those were the books she most enjoyed reading" ("Author Spotlight").
Fun Notes
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