Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
This is possibly the first time we read of the accusation of rape from the point of view of the accused.
Keir Sarafian, a young man in high school, is accused of rape by Gigi Boudakian, the girl he loves. The story is written in the first person present tense point of view of Keir Sarafian.
Keir believes himself to be good, the kind of guy who always respects a woman and her views, the kind who knows that ‘No’ means ‘No,’ the kind who was raised right. It is unthinkable that Keir could ever be accused of rape, that too by Gigi.
Gigi has a steady boyfriend, Carl, but because Carl is an air force man, stationed far away, he allows Keir to take Gigi to the prom as Keir is an old friend of both.
Then on their Graduation Day, Keir not only gets drunk, he also imbibes some narcotic substances at the home of Quarterback Ken. Later he and Gigi drive to Norfolk University where Keir has been accepted. Older sisters Mary and Fran are studying there, and Keir, who is hurt over the fact that they did not bother to come to his graduation, is determined to rub it in.
It is here that Gigi accuses Keir of doing the inexcusable, an accusation that he vehemently denies.
Do we believe him? Could Keir be capable of rape?
We don't know until much later.
Keir tries hard to get us on his side, as he explains his family background, what a great guy his dad, Ray Sarafian, is, and how it is unthinkable that he who has been raised by Ray Sarafian could ever do anything so inexcusable.
You can tell that Dad Ray is important to him. When his older sisters go to college, father and son are brothers, roommates, bastards and buddies. And so it proves beyond doubt that Keir is a loyal son, brother and friend, the kind who always obeys the rules and follows the plan. Or so Keir is convinced.
But the truth is that Keir’s past has not been as clean as he reports it to be. Some months ago, he achieved notoriety for having unintentionally crippled a guy while playing football. It was a crisis that saw him blacklisted by the community but his father stood by him. Eventually the crisis passed, and Keir is accepted to Norfolk University, where his older sisters are already studying. It is then that he feels accepted again.
The story is not a linear narrative. The anecdotes, the tiny stories that are the backbone of our lives, slip through, making it a personal account of Keir as he recounts the story of his life, how he is a good guy who would never hurt those he loved.
This refrain is repeated throughout the novel until you’re fed up of hearing it and want to tell him to shut up.
I hate it when people I love condemn me.
I hate it when people I love scream at me.
I hate it when people I love are silent to me.
Closer to the fateful moment, we get a slight variation to the refrain, I hate it when people I love let me down, as if it were others who deceived him.
At school, he acquires the nickname, Killer, which erected a rugged new structure on the formerly vacant lot of my persona. He revels in the nickname.
Keir is an unreliable narrator because he holds the truth from us and he lies to us. The author succeeds in making us feel a sense of revulsion towards this thoroughly amoral character who doesn’t seem to see himself as a wrongdoer at all. He gives us the examples of the incident on the football ground and the trashing of the soccer teams breakup party but in both cases, he sees himself as no great wrongdoer.
Sometimes he unwittingly gives away the truth, when he says, My will wasn’t good for anything. He admits that he can’t function under the influence; that My decisions, my memory, my brain control, deserted me at the hour of need.
His observations are good, they have a touch of wit about them, but the honesty in them becomes suspect when he relates things about himself.
Keir recalls his past mistakes and thinks It was never an issue of intent, but of intensity. As long as he stops before things go too far, it will be okay.
The narrative shifts back and forth between everything that happened before and all that happened after the inexcusable thing, but we aren’t told much about the inexcusable thing, until much later.
As a woman, I was left seething with rage. This is the first time I have wanted to enter the pages of a book just to sock a character.
The message which author Lynch delivered through this story was stark.
The manner in which he slowly revealed the truth was commendable.
Even if the character was not.