Title: Killing Mr. Griffin
Author: Lois Duncan
Published: 1978 (My copy is the 1990 printing, meaning it’s still the original version of the text rather than the “updated” editions LoDunc herself “modernized.” Thank God.)
Description: The plan was only to scare their English teacher . . . . They never actually intended to kill Mr. Griffin. But sometimes plans go wrong.
So, for Banned Book Week (Sept. 23-29), I decided to recap a book that’s been challenged and banned from some schools and libraries. Believe it or not, Killing Mr. Griffin was #25 on the most challenged book list from 2000-2009. It was banned from a few California schools in the 1980s, and challenged in plenty more. Seems ridiculous, but most of the books on that list are. Supposedly, Killing Mr. Griffin contains “violence, murder, drinking, drugs, lying to authority, peer pressure, and smoking.” They forgot “foul language,” but Sinnott Elementary School in Milpitas, California didn’t in 1988 when they challenged it – they also added that it has “no redeeming qualities.” Hey, come on, guys. Determinations like that should be left to recappers on the internet, not school districts! Geez!
I remember reading a virtual shit ton of Lois Duncan when I was a kid – I checked a bunch of them out of the school library, oddly enough! Never this one, though, and maybe the whole “challenged/banned book” thing is why. I didn’t read this one until I was an older teenager, when I got it from the city library. A movie version was made for television in 1997, but I’m pretty sure I was unaware of it until a few years later. I honestly don’t remember the movie very well, although I’m about 90% sure I’ve seen it. I know I watched Teaching Mrs. Tingle at some point after reading this book because it looked like it was a rip-off of this story and I wondered if it was like an official gender-swapped version or something. Listen, the movies have not been kind to Ms. Duncan’s work. I Know What You Did Last Summer barely resembles the book it’s supposedly based on, and a TV movie of Gallows Hill that was retitled I’ve Been Waiting For You was frankly disappointing and forgettable. I mean, do you remember it at all? I was so excited for it because the book had come out only the year before, and I really liked it, and then . . . meh.
Anyway, I don’t remember Killing Mr. Griffin all that well, but I know I liked it. I’m sure there are tons of dated references, and a sociopath manipulating everyone into doing what he wants, and a sad-sack main girl who will go along with a lot of bullshit because of a boy she likes . . . hey, so I listened to the Teen Creeps podcast episode and it jogged my memory on some stuff, okay? At any rate, I’m looking forward to rereading and recapping this one for y’all, and also trying to parse why it’s a banned book.