Brian Griffin is a strict high school English teacher. He doesn't accept late assignments for any reason. He considers an "A" grade to indicate perfection, meaning that even his best students don't get more than a B in his class. He once humiliated one of his students, Mark, making him beg to stay in his class after an incident with one of his assignments, only to tell him "no" and force him to take the class over.
Mr. Griffin's kidnapping starts with Jeff's frustrated and angry mumbling: "That Mr. Griffin's the sort of guy you'd like to kill." From there, Mark hatches a plan to scare Mr. Griffin by kidnapping him and making him think he might be killed. Jeff, Betsy (Jeff's cheerleader girlfriend), and David (senior class president and one of the most popular guys in school) also get involved, as does Susan. Susan is one of the Mr. Griffin's best students. She doesn't exactly like Mr. Griffin, but she doesn't have any reason to want to scare him. She does, however, have a huge crush on David, and it doesn't take much for him to convince her to help. Susan's job will be to make sure Mr. Griffin is in the right place at the right time to be kidnapped, while Jeff, Mark, and David do the actual kidnapping. Betsy is supposed to provide the guys their alibis. Unfortunately for everyone, the kidnapping does not go as planned.
I had hoped to check out Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer to read for my "Slasher Stories" square in Halloween Bingo, but my library didn't have that. Killing Mr. Griffin sounded interesting, though, so I decided to give it a go.
Killing Mr. Griffin is on the American Library Association's list of frequently challenged YA books. While trying to track down information about why it was challenged (for "violence and sexual content," according to the ALA), I came across a 2015 article describing a group in Collier County, Florida trying to get it removed from school libraries.
I didn't know any of that going in, but the title did a good job of signalling that Mr. Griffin was at least going to be in peril, and quite possibly end up dead. After Chapter 5 and its depiction of Mr. Griffin's home life, his true thoughts about his students, and his motivations, I was hopeful that the book would end up being a thriller in which readers would frequently worry that Mr. Griffin would end up dead but that he'd somehow make it until the end. Duncan dashed those hopes much more quickly than I expected.
I really liked the first few chapters of the book, which gave readers peeks at several of the main characters and the things that drove them. Susan was a shy girl who enjoyed writing, secretly had a huge crush on David, and felt overshadowed by her beautiful family members. Although David seemed perfect and untroubled at school, his home life was a different story. His dad left without a word a while back, and his mom probably saw too much of his father in him. His grandmother on his dad's side lived with them and had him at her beck and call whenever he was home, even though he strongly suspected she moved around just fine when he wasn't there. Mr. Griffin, meanwhile, had a happy life with his pregnant wife. He'd quit his higher paying job at the University of Albuquerque to teach high school students, hoping to give them the foundation they needed in order to thrive in college.
It was good stuff, even if the language was a bit dated. Unfortunately, I began to enjoy it less and less as the characters struggled to cover up what they'd done and, in Susan's case at least, deal with their crushing sense of guilt. This was not the kind of book where the cops were idiots, and these teens weren't criminal masterminds. In the end, I felt like I was just waiting to see which aspect of the crime would fall apart first. It wasn't so much suspenseful as it was frustrating.
The ending was both a bit over-the-top (the big confrontation) and depressing (the note). Although I didn't particularly enjoy the direction the story went after the kidnapping, and how things turned out, the last chapter would make for an excellent group discussion on guilt, peer pressure, and how the adults' interpretation of the events differed from how Susan likely viewed it all.
Apparently this book was "updated" at some point to include references to more modern technology, such as iPods and DVDs, without updating the dated feel of the dialogue and overall language. I read the original version of the book and, from the sounds of things, that's the best way to go if you can manage it.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Onise's words at the end of the previous volume cause Nao to wonder whether her feelings for Sou really are romantic. As she puzzles through the concept of romantic feelings and how to recognize them, Onise suddenly brings things to a head. He
kisses her while she's dozing and she wakes up and catches him at it. He's utterly horrified with himself and sure that this will be the end of their friendship, while she experiences an epiphany after the kiss: the one she has romantic feelings for is Onise. She wants to tell him, but how?
The volume ends with the introduction of a new character, Ayaha Futami, a classmate of Onise's who takes an interest in him.
I still think the entire "Nao has a crush on her uncle, who has been raising her since she was six" thing was weird and off-putting. And while I appreciated the way she started questioning how to recognize whether her feelings are romantic or not, I thought she figured things out awfully fast considering she'd spent years interpreting her love for her own uncle as romantic love.
I also didn't like the way Nao's epiphany happened.
What Onise did could be considered sexual assault. He kissed her while she was sleeping. From his perspective, Nao thought of him as a friend - no romantic feelings whatsoever. He knew he didn't have her consent for what he'd done, and it was part of why he was so utterly horrified when she woke up, caught him at it, and made him realize the line he'd crossed. I don't consider Onise to be a bad guy, but I wouldn't have blamed Nao if she'd been uncomfortable around him from that point on and kept him at arm's length.
If this had all happened in real life, that's probably what would have happened. However, this is a romance manga, so instead the kiss helped Nao figure out her true feelings. Again, I wish Meguro had figured out some other way to give Nao her epiphany.
Meguro included some moments showcasing Nao and Onise's budding friendships with Yashiro and Misaki, although they always referenced Nao and Onise's romance. The moments were cute, but I found myself thinking about the friendship storyline early on in Kimi ni Todoke that explicitly focused on Sawako, Chizuru, and Ayane, with no reference to Sawako's budding romance with Kazehaya. Yashiro supported Nao while she wondered what to do about Onise, and Misaki supported Onise as he decided to pursue Nao more actively. I thought the relationship between Onise and Misaki was slightly better done. It felt like they had a firmer foundation, in large part because Volume 1 had already done some of the work of breaking down Misaki's defenses on-page. Yashiro was a bit friendlier in this volume, but it came more out of the blue than Misaki's transformation.
Once Nao and Onise officially became a couple, I tended to like Meguro's efforts at "sweet" moments more. Onise turns out to be the sort of guy who moves both fast and slow, originally asking Na out "with marriage in mind," but worrying that by holding hands they're moving too fast. And Sou doing the "dad" thing, telling Onise that he'd better appreciate the cookies Nao put so much time into, was nice. I kind of hope Sou gets a romantic storyline at some point (with an adult! You have no idea how much I hate that I have to specify these things).
I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. I hope Futami is the good guy he appears to be and that Onise figures out a way to hang out with this new friend of his without making Nao feel like she's constantly being left out. But I worry that Meguro actually plans to make Futami a secret villain. I suppose I'll find out.
I'm still iffy about this series. Although the art style is cute and there are lots of cute moments, there are lots of aspects that I'm not wild about. I'm hoping the next volume is better.
Author sidebars and a few extra AU (alternate universe) comics in which Meguro depicts Sou as a teacher and all of the series' other characters as small children.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Death and grief
I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and was worried that nothing else would measure up to it.
As with that book, this one is centered around a young high school boy trying to figure out life while detailing in his relationships with those around him. Here, we have Salvador, his gay dad Vicente and his best friends Sam, who is more of a sister to him, and Fito, who is also gay. Sam's and Fito's lives are not as easy as Salvie's but he has his own issues to. His grandmother is sick again, and he's feeling an anger that he can't place where it came from. The ghost of his mother is always there, nearby, and his unknown bio dad is a big question mark. As Salvie, Sam and Fito go through their last year of high school, they face trials, joys and life-changing events.
I didn't really click with the narrator. He did a great job but for some reason his voice just never sounded like what I thought Salvie's voice should sound like. Then Saenz started tugging at the heart strings as first Sam, then Fito, then Salvie and Vicente experienced significant losses in their lives. All the characters are great, flaws and all, and Vicente is a terrific father. But Mima. Mima got me.
I lost my nana at the beginning of the year, a few weeks after New Year's. She had been sick a long time and waiting for death, but that didn't make it any easier when we got the call late one night to hurry and come before it was too late to say our goodbyes. I wasn't as close to her as Salvie is to Mima. My nana only spoke Spanish and I only speak English, so we couldn't talk without a translator. But I never needed a translator to know how much she loved me. She had God in her heart, and she loved her family with all her heart. If I was sick or not feeling well when we were visiting, she'd whip up some lemon tea with her special blend of spices and I'd feel better. She made the best tamales and her house and yard always smelled like guavas. Ten months have passed and I still sometimes forget she's not just a couple hours down the highway, and this'll be the first Christmas where we don't all gather at her house, sing carols and eat tamales until we can't move.
I saw my nana in Mima, and myself and all my cousins in Salvie, and the special bond that they shared. It's no surprise those were my favorite parts of the book, and that pulled this up from a 3-star to a 4-star read for me.
This was a fun little conclusion to this trilogy. I got a hoot out of Benji and Perry's hate-like relationship, they really stole the show. Stacie was only on page for two sentences, thank god. Maps was back into oblivious, OTT mode. Not that he really got out of it in the previous book but he seemed to be making up for lost time.
Since this is a short story, there's a lot of jumping from one plot point to another, which keeps things moving but also made it feel like I was missing things.
My idea of Maps's parents as he drives off to college: