Killing Mr. Griffin Book Poster Image

Killing Mr. Griffin



Engrossing, violent thriller about peer pressure.
Popular with kids

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.

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.

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

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Teen, 15 years old Written byHard Core Reader November 15, 2013

Killing Mr. Griffin, should it be banned?

Personally, I don't think any books should be banned or even challenged. If someone doesn't want their kid to read it, then don't let them read it! Don't ruin it or take it off the shelves so other kids can't read it! That being said, Killing Mr. Griffin was a great book, a work of realistic fiction. There was a couple curse words, an accidental murder, an attempted murder, and an intended murder. The violence isn't actually described, but the affects and the results of the violence do show. There is a lot of drama with the characters. I think that the only reason it was challenged was because it might have given people bad ideas, or because of the peer pressure. A group of kids convince one girl to help them kidnap their English teacher. There is also some underage drinking and drugs, but not in detail. Overall, I don't think that this book was bad enough to be challenged. I don't think that it is a good book to read aloud or anything, but wonderful for entertainment.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byalecbbl April 9, 2008

great book for kids 16+

references to drugs and alchol and tobbaco.kill a highschool adult(not intentionally)
Teen, 16 years old Written bymomo1babe March 27, 2012


it was a great read, very engaging and i liked it from the start to the finish. Mind you i hate having restictions on books because anything addressed is something the reader may have to endure in real life so its like a preparation, so banning books is stupid as is but heres my paper i had to write about it: by morgan thiel 10th grade: Killing the Classroom “I started thinking about charismatic psychopaths like Charles Manson and wondering what they were like as teenagers? They didn't just spring full-blown from oyster shells -- they had to hone the "people skills" that allowed them to become so manipulative as adults. Kids like that are growing up within our school systems and can exert tremendous control over their fellow students. I consider "Griffin" a cautionary tale about the danger of peer pressure,” said Lois Duncan, Killing Mr. Griffin’s author (paragraph 6, reply), when asked in an interview. You’d think with that being said that reading Killing Mr. Griffin would not only be approved, but helpful as well. So why would even having this book in stock stir up ruckus? With any problem in life, there will always be an organization to counter it, whether it’s viewed as appropriate or not. First of all, with any book, concerns can be raised in parents. The first reason parents wanted it banned was due to all the violence. “Overall this book was really violent, this includes one accidental murder, one intended murder, and one attempted murder” (Bradley4846). Even with the understanding of this, not allowing children to read this book due to those reasons is simply sheltering them more and more from the real world. Therefore prolonging there entrance into reality. The next reason concerned parents were complaining about the book was due to the use of drugs, smoking, and the underage drinking that occurred within the cool clique. This ‘fitting in’ might seem within reach now, with what seems to have the only price as them suppressing their morals, but not allowing them to be see that side of society makes them only more naïve to the real world around them. Despite parental concerns, librarian’s views can vary. “People learn from books. It’s the people’s rights to read what they want,” Slinger’s librarian, Mrs. Christman stated. People learn through being presented with problems, which helps them further there understanding. This knowledge can potentially help them in the future when dealing with various dilemmas. Every person has the right to read books. It’s there own decision to open the pages of the book, and read it. Thus being said, after reading Killing Mr. Griffin, it can be seen that the reader would then have a better understanding peer pressure and the damage that can be caused by giving into their peers, in a mere attempt to fit in. Why must one be restricted of what they can read, when truthfully if their minds can comprehend the want to do so, then they should be able to? With others views already taken into consideration, the belief that no book should be banned has still held its ground. First of all, everyone’s life will be different, so knowing whether reading one book or the other holds the possibility that it could help them in future time is forever unforeseen. No one can truthfully ‘see’ the future with certainty, so how will the reader know that any book, whether it’s Killing Mr. Griffin or another, will eventually be applied to their very life’s? As seen on page 50, Susan is confronted with the gang’s idea of how to kidnap Mr. Griffin and when given the option, since not typically being the popular type and suddenly enjoying the rushing thrill of acceptance, agreed to her designated part in their plan. “She heard her voice speaking the word, and her heart rose suddenly into her throat. Had she really said it? Had she actually agreed to this insanity?”(Susan, 50). After reading this, it’s easy to see that Susan had mixed feelings about her agreement, yet still agreed to fit in. Now who’s to say that she couldn’t have gone the other way and chosen not to participate? Everyone’s opinions and thinking, as are their logical thinking dealing with right and wrong, is different and unique. This is why one mustn’t classify any group as one specific type of people. It’s not physically possible to reach into someone’s mind and say, ‘No you must think like the rest of the group,’ let alone state that all their opinions and feelings on any subject are identical. Another reason that any book shouldn’t be banned is due to the fact that banning a book restricts the readers mind. Who’s to say that Johnny shouldn’t read Killing Mr. Griffin because it’s to ‘difficult’ for him to understand? Unless there are people out there that are willing to study his brain every time a problem arises to decide what he should do, then who’s to say that he can’t comprehend something. Restricting his right to read, view, listen, do or see what he wants is taking away his rights as an American Citizen. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’ Thus not allowing Johnny to read anything in particular is revoking his right as an American Citizen, and is therefore clarified as illegal. So why push the envelope further by banning any book? Normally, in any heated argument, there are multiple sides to any story, and to be able to decide what side is right, one must comprehend where both sides are coming from. Knowing the future is next to impossible so why not prepare. One person argues, “I have to say the role models are not good,” (Bradley4846). When stating this about Killing Mr. Griffin, he’s saying that all role models within the story are bad. What he fails to see is that any person in the book, yet alone life, is technically a role model. For example, Mark is one of the worst role models in this book, yet Susan is one of the better ones. Mark is tarnished with his terrible, completely self-conducted terrible past, while Susan was a normal, well moralled, extremely good student who was top of her class. So classifying that the role models in any book is extremely vague and invalid. Jenny, a middle school teacher, reacted, “I'm surprised that my school purchased a class set of it. Perhaps, eighth graders could handle it -- but, I know my little sixth graders could not,” (Jenny, 1). Any student should be able to read what they want. The sooner someone grasps that the world isn’t all cheery and made of butterflies and rainbows, the better off they are since they know that not everything turns out the way it’s planned to. Allowing the people to read Killing Mr. Griffin allows them to properly see right and wrong at work. It shakes the reader into understanding that the pain caused is the characters own fault and lets them learn. Remember, one can’t make all the mistakes, but they certainly can learn from others. With any problem in the real world, there will almost always have some people who have issues with it. So to take a quick moment to briefly explain what has been discussed: Unneeded substances and violence is everywhere, so why shelter the student from the world, forcing them to endure a harsh awakening later on in life. People learn from life, and books are life in written format, so allow them to read what interests them. People can’t decide what others like for them, so why attempt? No one can foretell the future, so who’s to say a book can’t help you? The late Mr. Griffin once stated, “I’d push each one into doing the best work of which he or she is capable of,” (Duncan, 55). So why don’t we?
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking