Guest Review: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

InexcusableTitle: Inexcusable

Author: Chris Lynch

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster

Release Date: May 8, 2007

Source: checked out from public library

Reviewer: Gregory Taylor

Summary (from Goodreads):

Keir Sarafian knows many things about himself. He is a talented football player, a loyal friend, a devoted son and brother. Most of all, he is a good guy.

And yet the love of his life thinks otherwise. Gigi says Keir has done something awful. Something unforgivable.

Keir doesn’t understand. He loves Gigi. He would never do anything to hurt her. So Keir carefully recounts the events leading up to that one fateful night, in order to uncover the truth. Clearly, there has been a mistake.

But what has happened is, indeed, something inexcusable.

Keir Sarafian is a good guy. He says so, with conviction, right on page three of Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. It’s the first thing the jacket copy tells us on the flap of the book. It’s right there in the first paragraph of the Goodreads summary. And the thing is, you believe him. You’re rooting for him. He seems like a really nice guy, a guy who’s just trying to get through his senior year of high school, a guy who has a crush on his childhood friend Gigi Boudakian.

The problem is, right from the first page, Gigi is screaming at Keir to admit what he’s done to her, even though she said no.

In this speedy first-person narrative, just 165 pages long, the chapters alternate between this tense and terrifying scene between Keir and Gigi, and Keir’s account of the events leading up to it. Keir’s a good guy (everyone says so; even Gigi says so, emphatically, only fifteen pages from the end of the novel). He’s just had some lousy luck. And maybe a couple lapses in judgment. And a few times when peer pressure lured him into bad behavior. But that’s normal, right? No one – not even a certified good guy – is a perfect saint.

Most of the time, Keir is a good guy. But he’s also an unreliable narrator. Doubt creeps in as you read about his exploits with friends and teammates; foreboding insinuates itself as you discover that Keir’s father acts more like a frat bro roommate, especially now that Keir’s older sisters are off at college. Keir is weak when it comes to making the right decisions, or choosing responsibility over fun and friends. Keir does have strengths: mainly, his power to rationalize his actions and his unerring ability to let himself off the hook. “The way you make things look is not the way things really are, Keir,” his sister Fran tells him. “You make things up to be what you want them to be” (150).

Keir loves Gigi Boudakian. He idolizes her, fantasizes about her, dotes on all her beautiful details. And although Gigi sees his flaws, and although she is dating someone else, she has a gentle affection for Keir – especially his sweet side that shows when he’s away from the influence of others. On the night in question, Gigi willingly gets in a limo with Keir and goes for a three-hour drive to another state. They take a long romantic walk in the middle of the night. They hold hands; they kiss. Unexpected (but preventable) circumstances lead them to share a room for the night. Certainly Gigi knows how Keir feels about her. Has she led him on? Has she invited the actions she now claims were unwanted?

Inexcusable unflinchingly inhabits the mind of a well-intentioned but weak-willed teenage boy. With heart-dropping clarity, this story demonstrates how a guy who’s kind and sweet and not particularly contemplative or self-aware can get into trouble, fast. Keir is not a monster; he’s the boy next door. All the good guys out there – and the girls who have a soft spot for them – need to read this book.

Gregory Taylor is a junior high school Teacher Librarian and former English teacher in Boise, Idaho, and teaches a course in Young Adult Literature at Boise State University. He’s been a devoted reader his whole life, and lives in a two-story house increasingly overrun with books.

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