Hey quirks! This week is Banned Book Week and I joined up with Sheila over at Book Journey for the Banned Book Week Celebration Blog Tour. Be sure to check out Book Journey everyday this week to see who's posting. There will giveaways as well!
Today is the first day of the tour, also known as my turn, and I want to talk about how a particular banned/challenged book impacted my life.
I don't believe in banning books. Yes, some books are not appropriate for everyone, but that does not mean they should be removed from libraries, burned, or censored from the public. So when I decided to join in the blog tour, I visited this list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. I was looking for a book to read for the tour, but instead came across a book I had read in high school that I didn't know was a banned/challenged book. That book is Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan.
We read Killing Mr. Griffin in my freshman English class and also watched a TV movie that starred Mario Lopez (of Saved by the Bell) and Amy Jo Johnson (the Pink Ranger from Power Rangers) based on the novel. If you've never heard of the book, here is a synopsis:
They only meant to scare him.
Mr. Griffin is the strictest teacher at Del Norte High, with a penchant for endless projects and humiliating his students. Even straight-A student Susan can't believe how mean he is to the charismatic Mark Kinney. So when her crush asks Susan to help a group of students teach a lesson of their own, she goes along. After all, it's a harmless prank, right?
But things don't go according to plan. When one "accident" leads to another, people begin to die. Susan and her friends must face the awful truth: one of them is a killer.
Being a rather straight-laced kid (much like Susan in the book), I disliked the story at first because of all the terrible things the teenagers do. But soon I realized that the fact that I cared what happened in the story and got so bent out of shape about it was a major indicator of how drawn into it I had been. I loved to read, so I read through it again, paying more attention to the characters and the details, watching things unravel with a more discerning eye.
After the re-read, I loved the book. It was a book about actions and consequences and the how deceptive people can be. I loved the snowball effect of the story, how one mistake led to another, and those situations revealed the true nature of the characters. I had never cared about a book like that before, nor had I been able to get so much out of one. It made me interested in the psychology of people and affected how I read books and looked at characters from then on.
In that same English class (a quick thanks to my teacher, Mrs. Cliff!) we also read Lois Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer, which, take it from me, is way better than the movie. It was another terrific thriller from Duncan, full of suspense and mystery and that psychological bent that kept you guessing who each character would really turn out to be.
Next thing I know, I'm scouring our school library and the local library for more books by Duncan. I ended up finding a couple, Summer of Fear and The Third Eye. Both of these I liked because they nurtured an interest I'd had since I was little: the paranormal. Then I found another of Duncan's books that I still think about to this day: Locked in Time. Not only did it have a bittersweet ending that I hadn't really encountered elsewhere (because you kind of felt sorry for the "villains"), but it was such a haunting story with lots of atmosphere and I loved the intricacies of the characters and their secrets.
After I ran out of Duncan books to read, my new taste for mysteries led to every single Mary Higgins Clark book I could find, then on to Stephen King, and so on. If it hadn't been for Killing Mr. Griffin, I probably wouldn't have looked for Duncan's other books and my interest for thrillers and mysteries and paranormal stories wouldn't have been kindled. Maybe eventually I would have taken in interest in those kinds of novels, but that means I would have missed out on the ton of great books I read during my teenage years.
Looking back, I am so thankful for Duncan and her novels. If Killing Mr. Griffin had been banned from my school, I don't know where I'd be today as a reader (or a writer, considering what I like to write are mostly YA paranormal with mystery and twisted characters).
What I find amusing and sad is that Killing Mr. Griffin was first published in 1978. That is twenty-two years before I read it. Even though it had been around for quite some time, it made it to #25 on the ALA list for 2000-2009, up from the #64 spot on the 1990-1999 list. Maybe it had a resurgence of attention because of the I Know What You Did Last Summer movie that came out in theaters in 1997 (the same year the made-for-TV Killing Mr. Griffin movie aired), but I find it ridiculous that this book that taught me so much, not just about people but about storytelling, was so challenged. I am grateful that my teachers paid no heed to talk of banning books.
And to pass the love of Lois Duncan's novels along, I am giving away two Lois Duncan prize packs to two lucky winners! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below and you could win Prize Pack #1, which contains updated paperback copies of Killing Mr. Griffin and Summer of Fear, or Prize Pack #2, which consists of Down a Dark Hall, The Third Eye, and Killing Mr. Griffin in the smaller trade paperback format.
Prize Pack #1
Prize Pack #2