Chris Lynch

Inexcusable

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Inexcusable Summary

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Inexcusable is a 2005 novel for young adults by American author Chris Lynch. Set in an American suburb, it is told by high school student Keir Sarafian, who struggles with substance abuse and is accused of date rape by his classmate, Gigi. Using the rhetorical device of narrative uncertainty, the novel explores the question of whether an individual can commit a terrible act like rape without intending to; and, if so, whether he should be held accountable. As the novel progresses, the characters, including Keir himself, begin to doubt his story. The novel resonates with contemporary discourse on rape culture, particularly as it pertains to young adult relationships and school environments.

At the beginning of the novel, Keir argues with Gigi about the truth of an allegation she made against him about the previous night. Gigi has accused Keir of date raping her after a casual encounter. He responds to Gigi’s accusation by declaring his love for her, insisting that he would never make a sexual advance without asking for her consent. Though Gigi makes rebuttals against Keir, the novel never gives Gigi’s point of view of the night before, instead rendering a one-sided narrative that mirrors the unfair power dynamics of gender in public and private discourse about consent.

The story then rewinds to the beginning of Keir and Gigi’s final year of high school, reviewing it from Keir’s perspective. Keir’s narrative delves into his troubled life at home. His father, more of an enabler than a paternal figure, has a delusional belief that his children are perfect, which stems from his own ego problem. Partially due to his dysfunctional family, Keir turns to substance abuse to suppress his unresolved feelings about his identity and relationships. His declining physical and emotional health trickles into his life at school: Keir begins to bully classmates, rapidly losing friends. He takes out the bulk of his aggression while playing on the football team, and his signature tackle earns him the ominous nickname “Killer.” In one particularly brutal game, when he tackles an opponent, he inadvertently sends him into paralysis. In the weeks after, he starts abusing cocaine.

Desperate for emotional support, Keir turns to Gigi. A compassionate young woman, Gigi helps him work through his problems without judgment. Not fully appreciating Gigi’s sacrifice, Keir grows furious when he discovers she has a new boyfriend. Then, he turns to his two older sisters, Mary and Fran. Though they sympathize with their brother, the sisters are ambivalent about Keir’s actions and struggle to validate some of his angry and intolerant impulses, fearing that he might think they endorse his abusive behavior. Keir singles out Fran as his confidant because she is the most unwilling to criticize him.

On a night shortly before graduation, Keir attends a party at a classmate’s house. He drinks and uses drugs, and convinces Gigi to visit  Fran at college. That weekend, they sleep platonically together in Fran’s dorm room. Afterward, Gigi asks Keir to be her date to the school dance because her boyfriend has other plans. They wind up in a cabin together and sleep in separate beds. Keir, while drunk and high, decides to climb into Gigi’s bed with her; he claims that his behavior is justified because she looked too beautiful to ignore.

The story cuts out just before the scene of the alleged date rape, frustrating any resolution. It returns to the moment at the beginning of the novel. Gigi continues arguing that Keir’s inability to remember the night is his own fault, and does not make it impossible that he raped her. At the novel’s end, Keir obtains a slight glimmer of awareness that he might have a distorted view of his behavior and morality. Inexcusable shows how so much of rape culture is rooted in male delusion and reinforced by society’s tendency to write stories from predominantly male perspectives.