Killing Mr. Griffin

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
Killing Mr. Griffin Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Engrossing, violent thriller about peer pressure.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

One of the classics of peer pressure and its consequences, this book is almost a text-book case study of the harm that happens when people follow along against their better judgment.

Positive Messages

This is a book where negative behaviors create positive messages. The main characters submit to peer pressure, commit a crime, and suffer the consequences. It's a strong way to show the downside of peer pressure.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Much implied but not described. The villain ties up a main character and sets fire to her house.


Infrequent, but in tense moments, some cursing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The other kids accept that the villain buys beer and smokes pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book examines what harm can happen when kids submit to peer pressure. They  commit a crime and suffer the consequences. The book builds psychologically and kids will feel increasingly challenged as the action spins out of control. This is a powerful look at the rule of the mob and the importance (and difficulty) of following your own inner sense of right and wrong.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byalec_smithers April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old November 23, 2018

really good book

The writing was good, and so was the plot.
Kid, 9 years old January 25, 2018

Killing Mr Griffin book review (free of spoilers)

This book was one of my first Lois Duncan novels (I have read many more since than) and it left a very good impression on me. Killing Mr. Griffin is about this... Continue reading

What's the story?

High school English teacher Mr. Griffin just isn't fair. All his students hate him. Five of them decide to teach him a lesson by kidnapping and frightening him. Unknown to them, he has a heart condition, and he dies. Keeping the secret leads to more crime. This popular, engrossing thriller about peer pressure holds the teenagers responsible for their actions.


Is it any good?

This tensely engaging book has been criticized for its violence, though it directly describes almost none; instead, we see the results of violence. We see how Mrs. Griffin suffers when her husband disappears, and how the kids feel a trap slowly closing around them. Lois Duncan skillfully builds the suspense until Mark's disguised sickness explodes.

We care about these kids as we watch them make decisions that will ruin their lives. Duncan forces all her characters to take the consequences of their actions. That realism lifts the book above the pulp-fiction genre and has kept it among the most popular young-adult novels for more than 20 years. The lessons it teaches about teenage peer pressure has kept it on many required reading lists -- this is one the kids can enjoy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about peer pressure. Why does Susan go along with the kidnap plot? What was at risk for her? What might have happened if she refused or reported the group's plan? As the situation escalates, why does she still remain silent?

Book details

  • Author: Lois Duncan
  • Genre: School
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Laurel-Leaf
  • Publication date: January 1, 1978
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 14
  • Number of pages: 223
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate