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Keir Sarafian is a self-proclaimed "good guy." After all, he says, he has "character witnesses." His two older sisters love, respect and support him, and "people like that don't support monsters." And, of course, there's Keir's dad Ray. Widowed for more than fifteen years, Ray expends all of his energy on his kids (OK, and some on the occasional glass of beer...or two...or more). "You had to be a good guy if you were Ray Sarafian's kid," says Keir. "You couldn't possibly be anything less."

As Keir's narrative unfolds, though, readers may start to question whether Ray's "good guy" persona is really accurate. Troubling chapters that take place in the aftermath of an action that Gigi Boudakian is calling date rape alternate with chapters that tell the story of Keir's senior year in high school. Keir claims that the point of these stories is to tell the truth, to show that he's not the kind of guy who could ever be capable of rape.

As the saga of Keir's senior year unfolds, though, his account raises more questions than it answers. Keir's masterful tackle during the football season, which leaves the tacklee paralyzed and gives Keir the nickname "Killer," is an accident --- right? Clearly Keir wouldn't have gotten all those football scholarships otherwise --- would he? That video that shows a shadowy figure violently hazing the high school's soccer team couldn't be of Keir --- could it? That statue of Paul Revere couldn't have been so utterly destroyed by Keir and his friends in a post-party frenzy --- could it? And, of course, it's normal for Keir to forget all of these episodes after a night of binge drinking and popping pills --- isn't it?

By the end of the novel, the reader, and maybe even Keir himself, is starting to question not only everything Keir claims, but also the premises on which he bases his life. Is his dad really a good influence, or does he enable Keir's problematic behavior? Do Keir's sisters really support him, or has their relationship already been utterly damaged?

"The way it looks is not the way it is," says Keir. This statement is true in more ways than one, as INEXCUSABLE's surprising narrative plays out. Chris Lynch's accomplished novel is bound to get readers thinking about whether or not they can trust this narrator. They're also likely to consider long and hard what it means to be the popular guy, the "good guy," and whether those labels excuse a lot of destructive, dangerous behaviors.

INEXCUSABLE is not only a compelling character study and a powerful, forceful story that will draw in readers --- it's also a thoughtful examination of a certain kind of young man, an exploration that should be practically required reading for high school students today.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 25, 2005

by Chris Lynch

  • Publication Date: May 8, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416939725
  • ISBN-13: 9781416939726