Killing Mr. Griffin

Common Sense Media says

Engrossing, violent thriller about peer pressure.





What parents need to know

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
Not applicable

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

Not applicable

Infrequent, but in tense moments, some cursing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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 book has been criticized for its violence, although 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.

Families can talk 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
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1978
Number of pages:223
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

This review of Killing Mr. Griffin was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byalecbbl April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

great book for kids 16+

references to drugs and alchol and tobbaco.kill a highschool adult(not intentionally)
Teen, 17 years old Written byMizzypoo1 September 24, 2009

What I think

I like this book. It tells you not to be under pure preessure. I think it seds out a goo message for kids and adults. sometimes adults do things because they're under pure pressure too.
What other families should know
Great messages
Adult Written byalec_smithers April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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