Sunday, July 8, 2007


Lynch, Chris. (2005). Inexcusable. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN-13:9781416939726.

Keir Sarafian is a good guy. He’s a good guy. "I’m a good guy." That’s what he tells himself. He also tells himself that his behavior is normal. The behavior of a normal, good guy.

But he’s not. And somewhere deep inside, he knows it:

Something changed in those weeks and months heading out of my high school life. Things were different. I was different. Physically different.

After football and soccer seasons were behind me and party season was in full session, I became aware of myself and my appetites. Myself as appetite.

Following his enabling father’s example, he starts to dabble in appetite. Dabble in drugs and drinking.

And little by little, we get to see the results of Keir’s appetite and his loss of control over it. Keir has raped his friend Gigi. He doesn’t understand that it was rape.

Why doesn’t she hear what I’m saying? Why don’t my words say what I’m saying?

“I’m sorry. Gigi, I said I’m sorry, remember? I didn’t do it.”
“Let me out of this room, Keir.”
“Why don’t you hear me? I’m not keeping you here. I’m just trying to get you to listen to me, and you keep not listening to me.”

“Can I just try one more time? Huh, Gigi? Okay, there was sex, we had sex, all right?”
Instantly, she covers her ears and spins to the floor like a corkscrew. She remains there, clinging to two fistfuls of hair on either side of her head.
“We had sex and okay, it wasn’t perfect, but I love you.”
It is like blood. Her beautiful liquid chocolate eyes are like spurting blood as she looks up at me now.
“Don’t do that,” I beg. “Please, Gigi, don’t do that to me.”
“It wasn’t perfect. But you love me,” she drones.

“That’s right,” I say.
“You raped me,” she says, in a flat, quiet tone that is like an almighty scream.

“Stop with that. That… word…is so wrong. That word does not belong here. It does not belong in the same room with us. It does not belong in the same world with me and you. That word, Gigi, belongs someplace else, with criminals and deviates and psychopaths, but not here, not with us, not with me loving you like you know I do. I did not. I could not, ever. You did not say that, Gigi, okay?”
“You raped me.”
“What are you saying? What are you doing, Gigi? This is me, here. This is me.”
“That’s right, Keir. You. …How could you do that to me, Keir? You? Me?”
… “No, no, no, no. Do you know how far away that is from me? That did not happen. Why aren’t you listening? I could never make that happen. Especially not to you. Not to anyone, but especially not to you. You know that. You knew that. Just know it again. Please. Please? Know me again.”
“I said no.”
“You know what happened. You slept with me. Right here. Right there,… Slept, Gigi. You slept with me, which is even better than sex, with I would trade for the sex a hundred thousand times over.”
“I said no.”

“I love you. That is what matters.”
“I said no. That is what matters.”

How could it get so wrong? How could she not know that I would kill anyone who ever did that to Gigi Boudakian?

The writing in this book is confusingly skillful. Chris Lynch uses accessible language and simple expressions to capture the audience. The flip-flopping from past to present wasn’t as well done as some other juxtapositions I have read—it left me feeling lost in space and time sometimes. But I’m not sure that wasn’t deliberate. The whole book felt like a weird nightmare or drunken haze. Maybe that was his point?

Content-wise, this book was a tough one for me. The first time I read it, I was almost on his side. I wanted to feel sorry for him. To see how obsession can push someone past the limit. How easy it is to love someone too much. To hug something so much you crush and kill it. To love someone so much and want to possess them so badly you can’t see or think clearly. But that isn’t love.

Tricky, tricky, Mr. Lynch.

Upon my second and third read, I started to remember the excuses my abusers made. One said, “I’m trying to teach you how to say no to boys. I’m trying to show you what some guys will try.” The same one said, “I just want to love on you a little bit” and he treated me like I was his favorite. Telling me he loved me. And for a long time, I thought that was the only love of which I was worthy.

But that’s not love. That’s destructive possession. It’s sickness. Love involves sacrificing your own desires for the comfort of another.

I was impressed by this book. By Lynch’s skill in making such a monster seem so human. It blurs the argument. But I was not impressed with Gigi. Her behavior and reactions were unrealistic, unbelievable, In My Honest Opinion. She seemed complacent during the rape and so overpoweringly vocal afterward. I’m not saying that that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. Everyone reacts to rape differently. But I’m saying that it makes me wonder how much research Lynch did before writing Gigi’s part.

Reviews for Inexcusable (via

From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Keir is a senior who fancies himself a lovable rogue. So do his widowed father, his older sisters, and his classmates. He likes being liked; he just doesn't do well with involvement. Keir would never do anything to hurt anyone intentionally–or would he? ...Keir's first-person narrative chillingly exposes the rationalization process that the troubled teen goes through to persuade himself and those around him of his innocence. Characters are clearly developed through immediately post-rape chapters that alternate with flashbacks of Keir's experiences and perceptions leading up to that point. As compelling as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (Farrar, 1999), though with a different point of view, this finely crafted and thought-provoking page-turner carefully conveys that it is simply inexcusable to whitewash wrongs, and that those responsible should (and hopefully will) pay the price.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* "The way it looks is not the way it is," begins Lynch's bone-chilling new novel. It looks like a date rape, and in the novel's first scene, set just after the alleged crime, teen Gigi accuses narrator Keir, whose terrifying denial ("I am a good guy . . and so I could not have done this") sets the book's tone…. Teens may doubt Keir's reliability as a narrator, but his self-recognition, in a final, searing scene, rings true. Here, and throughout this unforgettable novel, Lynch raises fierce, painful questions about athletic culture, family denial, violence, and rape, and readers will want to think and talk about them all. Where does personal responsibility begin? What defines a "good guy"? Are we all capable of monstrous things?

National Book Award Finalist

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