Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: "Killing Mr Griffin"

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
3 out of 5 stars

I was excited when I won the banned book giveaway over on WriterQuirk which included two Lois Duncan books: Killing Mr. Griffin and Summer of Fear. I remember reading some of her books as a teenager and how terrifying they were, so I wanted to see how they stood up now. I started with this one, because I know I read it, but didn't remember too much about it. Just that some students kidnapped a teacher and ended up accidentally killing him. I have to say, I did enjoy it but it wasn't nearly as scary now lol.

This book was originally published in 1978 (which I could not believe!) but she republished it in 2010 and tried to update some of the technology and word usage. Honestly, I don't see the point. She added a few instances of them using Google or iPods or cell phones, but then didn't change how Dave made Jello from a box for his Grandma. Who makes box Jello?? Those little cups are so easy and yummy, why bother? I think, in this case, the updates weren't necessary and kind of distracted me. Read the original version if you can!

Okay, so we start off at a normal high school in Arizona (I think?) and seemingly normal high school students, Susan and David. Susan is kind of a nerd, not popular, no friends, typical shy, quiet girl. Dave is a smart, popular guy, senior president, and Susan's crush. They're complaining together about their English teacher, Mr Griffin, who is super-hard on everyone. He gives no breaks, no extra time, and no A's. Everyone hates him and everyone has thought about hurting him somehow, but only Mark has the courage (insanity) to actually do something.

Mark is a dark, mysterious guy who gets close to no one but seems to know everything about everyone. He has a personal vendetta against Mr Griffin and manages to smooth talk Jeff & Betsy, jock & cheerleader, into joining him in a wild kidnapping scheme to teach Mr Griffin a lesson. They concoct their plan at the local burger shack and decide to bring Dave and Sue in as well. For some reason, they both get swept up into Mark's magnetism and agree to go along.

Each chapter is told by a different person's point of view (except Mark) so it's interesting to see how Mr Griffin sees his students, talking to his very pregnant wife. He's pushing them to get the best out of them. As a former college professor, he knows how horribly unprepared high school students can be and he wants to fix that. I know I had a huge shock when I went to college. In high school, they teach you such a strict format of writing papers: 5 paragraphs, 3 sentences in the intro & conclusion, 5-7 sentences in the 3 body paragraphs, etc...Then you get to college and they're like "I need a 10 page paper on the ramifications of World War II in the automobile industry and how it connects to present-day Ireland". And this is you:

Mark's plan is carried out and the kidnapping happens. Then, things get interesting. Each of the other kids struggles with their part in this and what it could mean if they get caught. Mark is happy to push it further, leaving Mr Griffin overnight alone, but Dave & Sue are too worried and go to set him free...only to find that he has died. Then, things get REAL interesting. As they all try to cover up their actions and continue their normal lives, things start to unravel around them. While it's pretty obvious to see how this story is going to end, it's still full of suspense. The ending did feel rushed to me though and that was a slight let-down in an otherwise enjoyable read.

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