This book is fascinating and disturbing. I couldn't put it down. Inexcusable, by Chris Lynch, is told from the perspective of Keir Sarafian, a high school senior, football kicker, and self-proclaimed "good guy". The very first scene depicts Keir in a bedroom having an intense confrontation with Gigi Boudakian, the girl that he claims to love. Gigi rails against him for what he's just done to her. "I said no" she insists. Keir argues with her, and with himself, because the picture in front of him simply can't be right. He is baffled. He can't possibly have just done this to someone he loves.
The rest of the book consists of a series of flashbacks of Keir's senior year, as he looks at himself, his family, and at recent events in his life. These scenes are interspersed with scenes from the confrontation with Gigi, and the reader only gradually learns what has led up to the conflict in the bedroom.
At first glance, Keir seems like a nice guy. He's popular, with plenty of friends. He's very close to his father and his two older sisters (his mother died when he was young). He has an engaging, self-deprecating voice. However, it becomes clear quite early in the book that there is a disconnect between Keir's view of himself and who he really is.
For example, Keir tackles an opposing player in a football game, permanently injuring the other boy, and costing the boy a chance at a football career. Instead of feeling remorse or empathy, Keir mostly worries about himself, and whether or not other people will perceive him as a monster. He blames the coach who put him in, and even blames the other kid for not getting up when he should have. Other incidents follow, and the pattern of lack of remorse or responsibility, and of blaming other people, strengthens.
Here's an example of Keir's denial and rationalization (not in reference to Gigi, but to another incident): "You can look at a thing and at the time it will look funny, if conditions are right. In the mean light of day an event from the night before might look plain nasty, but that does not automatically render it nasty, in its context. Even if I might partway agree with you about the nastiness in the light, that still doesn't mean that at its original time the thing itself couldn't have been a very different, better thing."
The reader also gradually comes to see that Keir's close family may not be completely healthy. Keir spends most of his evenings at home with his father, playing Risk and drinking beer. He talks with his college sisters on the phone every day. He worries deeply about going away to college himself and leaving his father home alone. He doesn't seem to have any close friends, although he has many acquaintances. Gigi, who he claims to love, plays no part whatsoever in most of the backstory, although they are supposedly longtime friends.
There's a moment where Keir is at a party that speaks to his isolation. He thinks: "I wanted other people. Not any other people but my people. I don't know where or how I had lost my ability to really enjoy hanging around with the general population, but I had well and truly lost it. It was like I couldn't bear to be very long with people other than the people I loved, and the people I loved were a very compact list and all the rest just made me tense and awkward and angry after the first twenty minutes."
Inexcusable was a National Book Award Finalist. Inexcusable is a frightening tale of how someone can appear fine on the surface, but be damaged inside, and how a series of poor choices and chance occurrences can lead to disaster. It's about the truths and lies that we tell ourselves and each other, and the price of emotional isolation from one's peers. Inexcusable is a powerful novel, told from a very risky perspective. I consider this book to be a must read for young adults of both genders. I highly recommend it for adults, too.
Author: Chris Lynch
Original Publication Date: 2005
Age Range: 14 and up
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.